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Word from the Institute - February 2015 By Prof. Nene Pimentel

A two-day conference on human rights was held in Manila from the 26th of this month to the 27th.

It’s a good thing that it was held here.

For one thing, human rights advocates - local and foreign - who attended the conference learned more about how countries in the ASEAN deal with human rights issues.

And, more important to the locals, is that some discussions were focused on how human rights are promoted and protected right here in our own country.

In general, our people are in the dark about what legal structures exist that may be availed of by them in the event their human rights are violated.

They are only vaguely aware, if at all, that there is a Human Rights Commission that was created and mandated by the Constitution, itself, to take care of their human rights.

While the human rights of our citizens are not intentionally violated by the authorities, like for instance, their right to clean air, some sectors of our society continue to suffer outright human rights harassments in other fields.

One recent example deals with a tenant farmer, by the name of Agapito Silva.

He was shot dead early this month, on February 3, at 530 p.m., at his home in Barangay Imok,  by a police-military team in Calauan, Laguna.

The police and the military men were reportedly out to arrest him for drug trafficking.

Nobody as yef knows what really happened.

The Silva family asserts it was a rub-out because he was ready to surrender. But, instead of taking him alive, they shot him dead.

The Silva incident is probably one reason why the country’s record on human rights is, at best, ambivalent.

Nonetheless, it may not be right either to claim that there is no progress in the government’s attempt to promote and protect the human rights of our citizens.

But, it would, certainly be folly to just leave the matter solely at the hands of the authorities.

The people must courageously assert their human rights, and stand up for them.

Unless they do so, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well-connected would continue their predatory ways at the expense of the poor, the deprived and the oppressed in the country.

Then, might becomes right.

That, certainly, would not be in the best interest of our people.

Without human rights, people are reduced to the status of animals.

Hence, human rights are vital to make life worthy of human beings.