Openness to Rights Curtailment
Of the three presidential bets who turned up for the forum, only one — Senator Noynoy Aquino — ranked high in surveys. His closest rival, Senator Manny Villar, was a no-show, along with others who were trailing them in surveys, such as former president Joseph Estrada, Dick Godon and former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro.
The other two who attended the forum were independent candidate Jamby Madrigal and Kapatiran Party’s JC delos Reyes, a councilor in Olongapo City. These two at least claimed their platforms are “human-rights-based.” Madrigal said she came from a very progressive platform. “The link between corruption and human rights is something that I have been fighting for in my platform of leveling the playing field. We need to put the big fish in jail without pardon in the Philippines,” Madrigal said. Examples of her big fish include Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senator Manny Villar.
As to national security being invoked as excuse for violating human rights, as is often the case in the Arroyo administration, Madrigal and delos Reyes vehemently promised that it would never happen if they became president.
“I will not kill those who love the Philippines,” Madrigal said, referring to the 1,118 activists killed under the watch of the Arroyo administration.
Aquino, amid hemming and hawing and qualifiers, said he favors a pre-Marcos-like Anti-Subversion Law. Aquino is not averse to curtailing rights in the name of national security. Although, he added, he hopes “we will not have a situation that will necessitate that.”
Aquino said he is amenable to rights curtailment when “there are instances or where there is a need whether perceived enemies of the state that (sic) will utilize the weaknesses of the system to champion their cause.” He cited as example Germany “during the time of the Baader-Meinhof gang” where, he said, “they had some curtailment of the civil rights being exercised at that point in time.”
The Baader-Meinhof Gang refers to the group led by five core members namely, Andreas Baader, his girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin, left-wing journalist Ulrike Meinhof, Jan Carl Raspe and Holger Meins. Some say it was organized on April 2, 1968 when Baader and Ensslin firebombed Frankfurt’s Kaufhaus Schneider department store, while some say it was formed on May 14, 1970 when Meinhof helped Baader escape from prison. The Baader-Meinhof Gang was a moniker coined by the German press but the group called itself the Red Army Faction. The Red Army Faction was responsible for a series of bank robberies and bombings of buildings in Germany from 1970-72, until they were captured in a spectacular shootout in June of 1972. The five core members committed suicide in prison one after another.
Citing the 1987 Constitution’s provisions for martial law, Aquino said, “When you have problems of armed…. private armies moving about amongst the population… then you would want some curtailment but without really, well, with clear delineations, and without, in effect, provided at the service of the people you’re sworn in to serve and to protect.”
Aquino’s “Steps” to Human Rights
While Madrigal talked of anti-landgrabbing and de los Reyes talked of “tearing down structures” in answer to queries about the link between human rights and prosperity, Aquino talked of “steps” that should be prioritized first before the others are attended to.
“How could somebody be so concentrated on the freedom of assembly when he does not know where the next meal is coming from?” Aquino asked. “How can you even bother with the freedom of the press when you can’t afford the price of the paper? So, it has to be freedom from hunger first and when that is settled, then the other empowering modes can take place. There has to be steps.”
Despite Aquino’s ladderized approach to human rights and possible “curtailment of human rights” in response to armed groups and “people utilizing the weaknesses of the system to champion their cause,” he later reverted to motherhood statements and mentioning his parents to join Madrigal and delos Reyes in promising “adherence” to human rights.
“From somebody who has suffered a lot from my parents’ time to the present, I think you can be sure that that will be one of my constant goals — the improvement of adherence to the observance of these human rights,” Aquino said in his closing speech. (Bulatlat.com)