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Human Rights Day 7’s arrest is the opposite of ‘prioritizing human rights’

Today is International Human Rights Day, and several progressive groups and human rights advocates held protests at Mendiola in Manila. But the gag is, on this same day, human rights may have also been violated.

As of writing, seven individuals were arrested: five union organizers, trade union leader Dennise Velasco and Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem. They were all arrested based on search warrants issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89.

Velasco was arrested for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives, his home raided early this morning. Meanwhile, Salem was arrested at 9 A.M. today, according to the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP).

Several progressive groups condemned the arrests, describing it as a “tokhang-like operation,” (according to Kabataang Tarlakenyo Para sa Bayan) a “mockery of International Human Rights Day” (Karapatan) and a “well-planned modus to weaponize the law against its critics and dissenters” (Kabataan Partylist).


Take note that this happened three days after President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines is “prioritizing human rights.” In his pre-recorded public address aired on Monday, he expressed support for the human rights summit of the Department of Justice, and even said that “the ‘work is far from over.’”

While true, this comes off as rather contradictory as he repeatedly called out human rights activists in the past and even threatened to kill his critics. We can remember that vividly at the height of the drug war and extrajudicial killings a couple of years ago (which is still here, BTW).

Some have even claimed that Duterte himself is the threat to human rights (also, why “only him?” The bar is on the floor).

The rights groups who marched at Mendiola today are all fighting for several causes and reasons, all of which relate to Pres. Duterte’s administration: the drug war, ongoing killings, red-tagging, the Anti-Terrorism Law and the government’s COVID-19 response, among many others.

As citizens, we do have the right to speak up on these issues, and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) stresses that it is a “shared duty.”

CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said that it’s our duty “to uphold everyone’s human rights in these times of crisis,” and we gotta keep our eyes on the government to make sure they’re fulfilling their obligations.

As Kabataan Partylist puts it, “[…] only dictators are afraid of the opposition. Only dictators are weaponizing the law against its critics and dissenters.”


Read more:
The future belongs to the revolution
I never understood protests until I joined one
Students aren’t terrorists, Sarah Elago reminds us


Photo by Karapatan


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