Human Rights Activism in the Philippines

Human Rights Activism in the Philippines has long been an issue that required serious attention. However, due to the violent history involving Filipino journalists, efforts to elevate human rights issues to public consciousness has continued to be tepid.

The Church Center for the United Nations, a lecture titled “Philippines: Human Rights in Context” was delivered to the public regarding certain Human Rights violations prevalent in the Philippines today. Appropriately enough, the event was held on February 28, 2014, the 28th Anniversary of the People Power Revolution, a change in government from the Marcos administration, an authoritarian administration notorious for human rights violations.

Speakers included Carlos Conde, a former New York Times correspondent and current Human Rights Watch Philippines Researcher, Natalie Agosto: a human rights activist recently returned from the Philippines, and Jessica Evans, the former Senior Researcher/Advocate for International Institutions Human Rights Watch. Rev. Liberato Bautista, Assistant General Secretary for United Nations and International Affairs of the general Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, and a former activist during the Marcos years mediated the event. The lecture intended to raise awareness of the continued and numerous violations of Human Rights in the Philippines and served as a call to action for activism in the Philippines.

All three speakers discussed the seriousness of the issue of impunity enjoyed by human rights violators in the Philippines. Carlos Conde spoke openly about the country’s history of killings of journalists to the extent of describing journalism as a dangerous profession. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks the country 3rd in the Impunity Index Ranking, “reflecting a terrible record in combatting anti-press violence.” There have been at least 13 Journalist killings in the Philippines in 2013. Only 3 have been truly considered profession-based killings because the other 10 victims were not in the field. A majority of such cases have not been investigated which is indicative of a broken criminal justice system.

However, according to Conde, these killings have not affected the way news is presented to the public:

The conventional wisdom is threats would have a chilling effect on the press. I’m not sure though that there has been any scientific study to back that up because, clearly, the killings continue and most of the victims are very vocal, very critical radio commentators who criticize officials, among others. If there’s a chilling effect, the killings, logically, would have stopped. That, or the killers have become much more brutal so that the slightest commentary would offend them enough to kill a journalist.

The news will continue to be brought forth, regardless of what is happening to journalists for there will always be the need to bring justice forth. The persistence of journalists is required to expose the various human right violations prevalent in the Philippines. There is still much to be done. The event served as a call to action and therefore stresses the importance of ensuring basic human rights.  (For questions or comments about this article, please email to ria@powerngpinoy.tv)

Carlos Conde speaking about  human rights activism

Carlos Conde speaking about human rights activism

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