"What happened to us? And where is our nation going now?"
Vice President Leni Robredo posed these questions on Saturday in response to the apparent lack of concern for human rights in the country presently, more than 30 years after the 1987 Constitution, which she dubbed the "human rights Constitution," took effect.
In a speech during the awarding of the 2018 Liberal International Prize for Freedom to detained Senator Leila De Lima, Robredo noted that many Filipino people seem to be willing to give up basic human rights for promises of security, safety and convenience.
"After decades of demonstrating leadership when it comes to human rights, we now realize that in the Philippines today, the way Filipinos understand human rights is still largely dependent on the actions of the powerful," she said.
During his third State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte declared that his deadly campaign against illegal drugs will not be sidelined, and will be "relentless" and "chilling," as it was since it began in July 2016.
"Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives. The lives of our youth are being wasted and families are destroyed, and all because of the chemicals called shabu, cocaine, cannabis, and heroine," he said.
Robredo, however, pointed out that Duterte's statement is a "false and misleading dichotomy."
"Our right to live is enshrined in the law, and this is the anchor of the entire framework of human rights. The right to life, along with all other rights—to food, to shelter, to education, to healthcare—are indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated," she said.
"We must make our people further understand that every human being is entitled to these rights, and that fulfilling the rights of some, at the cost of stripping away the rights of others, is precisely the injustice that the concept of human rights was established to correct," she added.
Robredo urged Filipinos to speak up and join in the fight for human rights.
"Let us focus on asking ourselves more deeply: How could we allow these injustices to happen, and when do we begin holding people accountable for their actions?" she said.
"It is time to speak up and work as one. The more we do, the more we are able to make the fight for human rights relevant," she added.
De Lima accepted in absentia the award given her by Liberal International "in recognition of her "unwavering fight in defense of human rights."
Her son Israel received the award on her behalf.
"What happened to us? And where is our nation going now?"- Robredo
4/ 5Oleh BNP Correspondent