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Human Rights Week in UST opens with forum

The UST Simbahayan Community Development Office hosted a forum on human rights today, September 16, 2019 as part of its Francisco De Vitoria Human Rights Week.

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Photo by John Aaron Pangilinan

The UST Simbahayan Community Development Office hosted a forum on human rights today, September 16, 2019 as part of its Francisco De Vitoria Human Rights Week.

Francisco De Vitoria is a Dominican priest known for instituting an international human rights law and a defender of the rights of native Americans.

The University’s Vice Rector for Religious Affairs Rev. Fr. Pablo Tiong O.P. introduced Francisco De Vitoria to open the said forum, highlighting the life of Vitoria and his contributions to the mative people of the Americas.

“Kung may karapatan, may katungkulan at ang nangunguna ay ang katungkulan natin sa Diyos. Lahat ng karapatang-pantao ay bigay ng Diyos. God is the fundamental reason for our human rights,” said Tiong.

Human rights under Duterte 

Prof. Nymia Simbulan, Ph.D. discussed the current human rights crisis under the administration of President Duterte 

“When we speak of rights, this would deal primarily with the relationship between the state and ordinary citizens. It does not deal with the relationship between two or more ordinary citizens. Human rights refer to the minimum standards on how the state would treat the people when it comes to civil, political, social, cultural and economical aspects of life,” according to Simbulan.

“When we speak of human rights violations, we deal with state perpetrated actions against ordinary citizens. ‘Pag ang isang tao napatay ang kanyang kapitbahay, hindi po ito itinuturing na paglabag sa karapatang-pantao. Those are crimes dealing with ordinary persons. […] Kung kailan hatinggabi ang mga tao natutulog tsaka papasok ang demolition team, that is a violation of human rights. When the people were thrown in an area outside Manila without electricity, education, then that would be a violation of human rights,” she said.

She reiterated how the current administration “bastardized” human rights in the country, and how the president serves today as a “big threat” to human rights. 

“The moment he [Duterte] assumed his position as the highest leader of the land, mapapansin natin naging bukam-bibig niya ang karapatang-pantao. How he [sees] human rights is something distorted, demonized, bastardized. […] President Duterte is the biggest threat to human rights since martial law,” said Simbulan

Simbula asserted that the administration’s war on drugs strongly shows the degradation of the respect for human rights in the country and how the war on drugs became a war on the poor.

Culture of impunity and democratic decay

“There is a culture of impunity. […] Ang lahat ng napapatay ay mga ordinaryong mamamayan. […] Some say that the war on drugs is a war on the poor. […] Whenever there are killings reported by the mass media, there are no protests, there are no demonstrations, which is very dangerous. Nagiging kampante na tayo. Normal na lamang sa ating lipunan” she added.

Simbulan also noted the democratic decay in the country because of the current policies and measures of the current administration and how bills and “kill policies” supporting war on drugs were prioritized.

“There is a democratic decay, undermining the checks and balances in the government. […] In the last Congress, there is a supermajority. So when it comes to political agenda, there would be no much debates. The priority bills on the war on drugs of the President were easily passed,” said Simbulan.

She also noted the vilification cruel treatment on human rights defenders.

“If you are involved in the drug war, you deserve to be treated with cruelty. If you are individuals affiliated with human rights NGOs, or human rights defenders, these individuals are labeled as enemies of the state,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mark Louis Siapno, Head of Strategic Division of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) talked about how CHR’s role and mandate in the protection of human rights, noting how human rights became too political instead of being universal.

“While you have your human rights, there are people in charge of your human rights. […] From a universal concept, ang human rights nagiging political concept when in fact, you have your own human rights. Ang human rights ay hindi na pinag-uusapan sa tamang perspektibo. Hindi na pinag-uusapan nang para sa lahat,” said Siapno. 

“Human rights also points to obligations. May katuwang na obligasyon at karapatan. […] For as long as it respects other person’s beliefs, you cannot put blanket restrictions as it will violate peoples’ rights. For as long as they are human, the state has obligations to respect rights,” he added.

Siapno also asserted the importance of human rights especially to the poor: “Those who have less in life should have more in law. The CHR serves as mechanism para pantayin ang lahat in the eyes of the law,” said Siapno.

The Francisco De Vitoria Human Rights Week will feature an exhibit and film viewing, and will have another forum on martial law on its last day on September 20, 2019.

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Counter military, police propaganda-based disinformation—veteran journalist

Rappler managing editor urged aspiring journalists Friday, Oct. 23, to fight propaganda-based disinformation caused by law enforcers.

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Rappler managing editor urged aspiring journalists Friday, Oct. 23, to fight propaganda-based disinformation caused by law enforcers.

Glenda Gloria, a journalism alumna of the University, said that the military and the police do not seem to understand the role of the media as the fourth estate because of their “very utilitarian” view of information. 

“They use information as propaganda because they think it has to achieve something for the organization, whether that means further securing the country or defeating the enemies of the state,” Gloria said in a fact-checking webinar. 

According to her, the attempt of law enforcers to speed up their propaganda is due to the tremendous pressure to eliminate insurgency before President Duterte steps down in 2020. 

“The biggest factor behind the politicization of the armed forces is the commander-in-chief. Whatever the President wants will determine the political influence of the military,” she said. 

Gloria reminded aspiring journalists that no war has been won using propaganda as a primary tool and to “continue the fight against lies” that are being weaponized for the mass destruction of the country.

The webinar titled, “Propaganda, State Secrets and Other Issues in the Security Sector,” was hosted by MovePH, the civic engagement arm of Rappler. Vhey Tapia and Raheema Velasco 

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Flatten curve to revive economy, solon says

The government should remain in its goal of flattening the curve to revive the economy, a lawmaker advised Saturday, Oct. 24.

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Photo courtesy of the UST Central Student Council

The government should remain in its goal of flattening the curve to revive the economy, a lawmaker advised Saturday, Oct. 24.

“Klaro naman na hindi natin kailangan pumili between saving lives and livelihood. Hindi na tama na ang trade-off between the two…[b]ecause we can save both,” Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo said. 

Quimbo, who is also an economist, stressed the importance of evidence-based policymaking and monitoring, as well as business continuity and job projection interventions. 

The solution and interventions included grants for technical assistance, subsidies for COVID-19 testing, and wage subsidies with retention clauses. 

“We can afford to rise, pero dapat balansehin so as not to fall into a debt crisis… [b]ecause as we all know napakadali po to become poor pero napakahirap mag-exit sa poverty. Importanteng importante ang datos,” Quimbo said.

Quimbo also laid out the framework for the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines (ARISE), which she is one of the principal authors. 

Under the ARISE, a comprehensive plan will be followed to address the pandemic-brought economic crisis with a proposed P1.3 trillion budget over three years.

In the bill still pending in the Senate, Quimbo specified transitional, financial, sectoral, and structural support that, according to her, were the basis of the framework for the “mini-version” of the Bayanihan 2 that is in effect until the end of this year.

‘Reform the economy’

IBON Foundation executive director Sonny Africa urged the government to “reform and shape” an economy that benefits everyone. 

According to Africa, the government’s current response is focused on a “very artificial poverty reduction” by granting cash transfers without addressing the structure that continues poverty.

“The government is very keen on infrastructure to promote economic growth, but the Philippines is so lacking in economic fundamentals as it uses infrastructure as a short-cut to growth,” he said.

Africa also criticized that while the government is focused on infrastructure development, decades of neoliberal health privatization eroded  the public health system, which worsened the mortality rate even pre-pandemic.

The webinar “EkonDisyon: Philippine Economic Recession and COVID-19” is a part of the MulaTalakayan organized by the University’s Central Student Council. 

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Tourism recovery to revamp economic sectors, officials urge

Tourism officials stressed the importance of a responsible and “new normal-ready” recovery in the tourism sector amid gradual easing of health protocols in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Photo courtesy of the UST Research Center for Social Sciences & Education

Tourism officials stressed the importance of a responsible and “new normal-ready” recovery in the tourism sector amid gradual easing of health protocols in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Officer Alfonsus Tesoro called for sustainable and strategic recovery efforts to support and revamp economic sectors.

“Tuloy-tuloy dapat ang pag-conduct ng tourism site assessment and planning kasama ang iba’t-ibang stakeholders from the national government agencies, provincial government offices, and the private sector,” Tesoro said in a webinar, Thursday, Oct. 23. 

According to Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes, a survey conducted in Eastern Visayas showed that 66 percent of the respondents admitted that health risks affected their decision to travel, while 80 percent are now eager to visit tourism sites within the region only. 

“This gives us an idea of what tourism activities we should prioritize when we reopen our [tourism] sites. A large majority expect health and safety protocols in place, there should be value for money, and that fun activities will still be offered even under the ‘new normal,’” she said.

Tiopes added that despite the steady reopening of the tourism sector, health protocols would still be strictly employed to ensure safety of tourists and residents. 

The webinar titled, “Philippine Tourism Development and COVID-19 Pandemic: Recovery through Sustainable Development,” was spearheaded by the University’s College of Tourism and Hospitality Management in partnership with the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines, Inc., and co-organized by the UST Research Center for Social Sciences and Education. Paolo Alejandrino 

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