February 6, 2019, Sulo Riviera Hotel, Quezon City
Good morning and warm welcome to Makatao’s Kapihan on Defending Human Rights. This is the maiden Kapihan of continuing periodic relevant forums.
I am happy to see all of you this morning, but I must admit that as I stand here before you may kirot sa puso ko. Ang dahilan: sa araw na ito, labing walong taon na ang nakaraan, ang aming pamilya ay binalot ng dalamhati at poot.
Isang bala ang kumitil sa buhay ng bunso kong kapatid – si Ka Popoy Lagman. Subalit, pisikal na katawan lamang niya ang naglaho – hindi ang kanyang mga prinsipyo, adhikain at mithiin para sa bayan, lalung-lalo na para sa uring anakpawis.
His spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of his comrades and of the workers and disadvantaged sectors he dearly loved and championed. Today, in his honor, some of them are staging a rally at the Senate to protest various policies of government that are inimical to the interests and welfare of the working class. All this, Ka Popoy would have also assailed if he were with us today.
The issues and problems that beleaguer workers and the urban poor, which they are protesting today at the Senate, are also relevant to the issues we are discussing at this initial Kapihan.
The bottom-line is – whether these issues are basically civil and political or economic, social, and cultural – they all involve protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
We are in the midst of a deepening human rights crisis. The right to life is brazenly violated. On January 30, National Democratic Front consultant Randy Malayao was shot to death. In 2008, Malayao was a victim of enforced disappearance and severe torture perpetrated by his military captors. Before he was killed, he was actively defending the rights of farmers, addressing concerns on militarization in the countryside, and pushing for “just and lasting peace”.
Drug war-related killings remain unabated and similar reprehensible acts perpetrated against local government officials, with callous impunity in most cases.
Violence no longer creeps but gallops even as it crushes our sense of morality and humanity itself.
Red-tagging, witch-hunting and profiling of activists exacerbate violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In this light, it behooves us, more particularly those who are members of non-profit organizations, to critically and thoroughly examine the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Memorandum Circular No. 15 issued on November 7, 2018. To help us better understand this issuance, we have invited a renowned legal luminary, Atty. Pacifico Agabin, former dean of the UP College of Law, to discuss its ramifications and implications.
Aside from SEC MC 15, we shall have a freewheeling discussion on how the proposed human rights defenders protection law guarantees the rights and fundamental freedoms of HRDs. We also expect our friends from media to share narratives about their experiences as HRDs.
Also worth considering are the challenges in raising the level of awareness of human rights among millennials for the youth have great potential as dynamic catalysts of meaningful social change.
Your views on other related human rights issues and concerns shall be most welcome and truly appreciated.
This Kapihan aims to challenge us to resolutely resist the deliberate moves of government to constrict civic space.
History has shown that authoritarianism and repression either breeds resignation and submission or resistance and revolution.
More than government’s pretense of a continuing rebellion in in Mindanao, what is sustained and irrepressible is a continuing revolution – a democratic right to self-deliverance from injustice and oppression.
A movement that seeks radical change in the country’s social structure has relentlessly challenged the powerful and the elite through various forms of resistance and goal-oriented initiatives.
Our people have always hungered for real change. Many silently rage against deception and despotism. But not too many have the courage to stand up, speak out and fight without counting the cost.
We must learn from the counsel of Frederick Douglass, a freedom fighter, reformer, and statesman, who said that the “limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
Verily, if people who are oppressed do not openly protest, object and resent their being tyrannized or abused, their oppression is bound to continue, even in perpetuity.
Today, we have no option but to keep on fighting steadfastly for human rights. Let us stand as one, resist and condemn all assaults on human dignity.