Exact Accountability, Defend Human Rights, Recover Better
On this 72nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we seek full accountability of government before any form of meaningful recovery can be achieved. Accountability forms an intrinsic part of rights-based governance because it addresses injustice. Accountability ensures that violators will face the full extent of the law; it reduces the possibility of abuse, corruption and double standard practices. Thus, accountability builds trust in our systems and encourages people’s engagement, which strengthens our democracy. A serious commitment to human rights must prioritize exacting responsibility for grave human rights violations.
President Duterte, in a government event earlier this week tried to appease the global community by assuring that human rights is part of his priorities in the country’s development goals. Touting the event as an effective international platform for cooperation, he called for a multi-sectoral engagement towards a healthy human rights environment for all.
Amidst the wholesale derogation of our civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, perpetrated by the government itself, Duterte’s performance rings hollow if not outright laughable. Nor does it placate the millions of victims of his atrocious policies.
In truth, the only environments that we all suffer are the environment of a bloody war against the people, the environment of brutal poverty, the environment of misogyny, chronic catastrophes and a badly managed pandemic. Meanwhile Duterte’s elite cronies and political allies relish an environment of impunity for their graft-ridden, incompetent, insensitive, privilege-driven, debt-dependent governance.
We demand accountability for the roughly 30 million Filipinos, mostly children, who have experienced involuntary hunger especially during the early months of quarantine; for the additional 1.5 million Filipinos projected to become poor due to the fast-declining economy.
We demand accountability for the more than 4.5 million Filipinos who are unemployed, who are trapped in grinding poverty and highly vulnerable to the successive calamities and the pandemic; for the more than 2.3 million students who have dropped out of school due to difficulties in distance and online learning.
We demand accountability for the relentless violence and summary killings in the name of the war on drugs and the war on terror, which has been reinvigorated by the appointment of the new PNP Chief, but has shifted to stealth mode because of global condemnation;
We demand accountability for the government’s militarist COVID response, with the longest, harshest lockdown and among the lowest recovery rates worldwide. Likewise, government must be held responsible for its dismal behavior relating to the successive natural calamities despite having the resources for timely and effective response.
Our shrinking economy, the worst in Southeast Asia, is only matched by our shrinking democratic spaces which continue to red tag and persecute critical voices against the government. Instead of harnessing the valuable contribution of the people to inform public policies, government persists in silencing them.
Human Rights must be at the core of recovery if all is to recover better. Otherwise, it will only be a recovery for the elite, the corporate giants, and the powerful at the expense of the suffering majority.