By Aislinn Manalo
“If we remain silent, then we will just be swallowing every illegal or wrong things or violations that the state authorities are doing.” –Atty. Flora Ditalano
A forum on human rights entitled “Stand Up! Speak Up!” organized by Far Eastern University Negotiorum Lex (FEU NegLex), Far Eastern University Central Student Organization (FEU CSO), and FEU Student Development (FEU SDev) in partnership with Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Angel C. Palanca Peace Program Foundation was held last November 23, 2016, Wednesday at the University Conference Center (UCC). The forum aims to heighten social awareness and knowledge of the students regarding the role of the government, media, and the society itself in the current state of human rights in the country.
Hosted by Mr. Joshua Valencia, Vice President of Far Eastern University Central Student Organization (FEU CSO), the forum was officially opened by Mr. Joeven R. Castro, Director of FEU Student Development who quoted Elie Wiesel: “to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” He also stated that “The university is not just a four walled institution that prepares you for jobs because when you go to your work there is an interplay of factors that you will encounter as a future professional.” challenging the FEU students to take part and to be vigilant in the current situation of human rights. The opening remark was followed by a short video presentation that showcases the recent news and photos of human rights violations specifically, extrajudicial killings.
Mr. Joshua Valencia welcomed the moderator, Atty. Rosalie Cada, adviser of Far Eastern University Negotiorum Lex (FEU NegLex). She formally introduced the forum’s panelists namely: Ana Elzy Ofreneo, the director of human rights promotion office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Atty. Flora Ditalano, the director of legal and investigation office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and Jamela Alindongan, an FEU Alumna, a Filipino Journalist and an Al Jazeera producer.
Before starting the panel discussion, Atty. Cada gave a brief background concerning extrajudicial killings as violation of the Philippine Constitution. The first question given by Atty. Cada was about the facts about human rights especially those pertaining to the anti drug campaign of the government. Atty. Ditalano was the first to answer saying that “We see a shortcut, we see disregard of the right to liberty, the right to life, the right to due process. Especially of people who are considered as suspects or suspected pushers, users, protectors or just plainly involved in illegal drugs.” She also said that what saddens her is the “collateral damage” that took the lives of the innocent people and traumatized the children as they witnessed the killing of their parents with their own eyes.
Jamela Alindongan responded by talking about the systematic, deliberate and well-funded demonization of journalism in our country. She also recalled that today marks the seventh year anniversary of Maguindanao massacre. “At the end of the day, one life lost is one too many.”Alindongan further explained.
Elzy Ofreneo added that “the fact is that in any case or extrajudicial killings, you can imagine several stakeholders taking particular roles.” The stakeholders, as mentioned by Ofreneo are the victims of extrajudicial killing, the violators of human rights and their support system.
The second question asked by Atty. Cada is how their roles (CHR and Media) are affected by the government’s fight against drugs. To which Atty. Ditalano responded by saying that, “The CHR is mandated to protect and promote human rights. So the CHR also has the mandate to monitor the government if our government is compliant with international human rights laws or human rights, this is to which the Philippines is a state party.” She also said that in relation to the issue of extrajudicial killings, “no person shall be arbitrarily deprived of their right to life.”
The role of media, according to Jamela Alindongan is that “to fact check every single statement that the government is putting up.” and “to cover what is not seen by the public. What is not seen by the public would be the mountain, rotting bodies in funeral homes.”
Atty. Cada then asked Director Ofreneo about her initiatives in promoting human rights in our country given the current situation. Ofreneo answered saying that aside from their role as the protector of human rights, “we also use preventive measures.” She also said that they are making sure that students will still be informed about human rights despite the change in curriculum due to the implementation of K to 12 program.
Atty. Ditalano was asked on what is her stand about the justification of extrajudicial killings out of necessity and effectiveness. She answered that “we are a democratic country and we follow the rule of law. If we disregard the due process provision in our constitution, the due process provision in international covenant on civil and political rights, we disregard the bill of rights provision particularly, article one section one where in it states that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Nor shall any person be denied of the equal protection of the law. If the government will disregard that, there is no need to us to have an organized government, there is no need for us to have laws.”
Atty. Cada questioned Director Ofreneo if “killing” is an effective way to put an end to the proliferation of drugs to which she responded with a no, explaining that so far, there is no country who succeeded stopping the proliferation of drugs by means of killing.
Jamela Alindongan, on the other hand said that she does not agree that there are only a few journalists who reports genuine news to the public saying that “we work very hard, behind the scenes.”
After the panel discussion led by Atty. Cada, an open forum was held to give the audience a chance to ask their questions.
The awarding of certificates and token were done by the Negotiorum Lex (FEU NegLex) and Angel C. Palanca Peace Program Foundation.
The program officially ended at the FEU Quadrangle, where a candle lightning event took place in commemoration of the human rights victims.