Where senatoriables stand on human rights

For respecting human rights, senatoriables Neri Colmenares, Chel Diokno, Leody de Guzman, Erin Tañada, and Samira Gutoc got a perfect score of seven. For outright disregard for human rights, Ronaldo Bato dela Rosa, Christopher “Bong” Go, Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla and Jiggy Manicad earned a score of zero. Imee Marcos got two points but had a track record of abuses during his father’s rule.


MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has no qualms about disrespecting human rights. He openly called for the killings of drug suspects and perceived enemies, showed narco lists without an iota of evidence and spewed out invectives against those who criticized his lust for blood.

This midterm elections is a referendum on the Duterte administration. His biggest campaign, the so-called war on drugs, proves to be a failure after three years into the presidency. Bulatlat takes a look at the stance on human rights issues of 27 senatorial candidates from Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), Otso Diretso and some independent candidates.

Seven key human rights issues were identified namely: war on drugs, martial law extension in Mindanao, Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, mandatory drug testing in colleges, freedom of information (FOI) bill and anti-discrimination or the SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) Equality Bill.

For respecting human rights, senatoriables Neri Colmenares, Chel Diokno, Leody de Guzman and Erin Tañada, and Samira Gutoc got a perfect score of seven.

For outright disregard for human rights, Ronaldo Bato dela Rosa, Christopher “Bong” Go, Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla and Jiggy Manicad earned a score of zero. Imee Marcos got two points but had a track record of abuses during his father’s rule.


Thirteen of the 27 senatoriables publicly opposed the “war on drugs.” Most of them are from the opposition. Two of them — Neri Colmenares and Chel Diokno — actively criticized it and took the case to court. Colmenares, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, served as one of the legal counsels to the complaint filed by relatives of the victims before the International Criminal Court. Diokno, meanwhile, filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking to declare the war on drugs unconstitutional. Both lawyers are part of “Manlaban sa EJK,” a coalition of lawyers, legal experts and law school associations that campaigns against extrajudicial killings, threats to freedom of expression and attacks against human rights defenders.

Meanwhile, former Philippine National Police chief Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa was at the forefront of the tokhang operations. It was during his stint that Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo was kidnapped and killed and Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, was killed inside his detention cell.

Former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go is campaigning for the continuation of “war on drugs.” He even said he is willing to go to jail with Duterte. 

Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III defended “the war on drugs” as part of law enforcement while Jiggy Manicad praised Duterte for “creating fear among drug pushers” even as acknowledged there were cases of extrajudicial killings in the conduct of war on drugs.

The other administration candidates have no public stand on the issue.

Hero’s burial for former dictator Ferdinand Marcos

Twelve of the 27 senatoriables opposed the burial of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The most vocal against it were Colmenares, Diokno, Leody de Guzman, Serge Osmena and Bam Aquino.

Imee Marcos, daughter of the late dictator, peddled the lie that there was no evidence proving their family’s ill-gotten wealth. She benefited from his father’s reign, acting as chairperson of the Kabataang Barangay and as assemblyman to the Batasang Pambansa. The torture and killing of Archimedes Trajano who then questioned Imee, publicly on her being the national chairman of the Kabataang Barangay, was attributed to her.

“On August 31, 1977, Archimedes Trajano, a 21-year-old student of Mapua Institute of Technology, attended an open forum with Imee Marcos, 21-year-old daughter of the dictator. Her father had appointed her National Chairman of the Kabataang Barangay youth organization. When Trajano questioned her about her appointment, Imee apparently became irritated. Her guards seized Trajano and dragged him away. His body was found hours later: he had been severely tortured and beaten to death,” an account read.

Juan Ponce Enrile, defense minister of Marcos, also lied to his teeth claiming there was only one executed and no one detained during the dictatorship.

Based on Amnesty International’s records, from 1975 to 1985, there were at least 3,200 victims of extrajudicial killings; 77,000 political detainees; 3,500 torture victims; and more than 700 disappearances.

Four other senators approved of the hero’s burial for Marcos namely: Dela Rosa, Go, JV Ejercito and Cynthia Villar. Others have not issued a public stance on the matter.

Other issues

Ten senators are against the extension of martial law in Mindanao. One opposition candidate, Nancy Binay, approved of the extension.

On the proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility, eight senatoriables are for it. They are Dela Rosa, Ejercito, Go, Manicad and Marcos. Most of the opposition and independent candidates are against it.

On mandatory drug testing in schools, 14 of the 27 either have not issued a public stand or have abstained from voting on the proposal.

Freedom of information, anti-discrimination

Sixteen of the 27 senatoriables have supported the freedom of information (FOI) bill. Grace Poe has been a consistent advocate of FOI since she became a senator.

No one has publicly opposed it although most of them have not issued a public stance on the matter. It should be noted that Revilla and Estrada, for example, have been involved in previous corruption cases while Marcos benefited from ill-gotten wealth.

Seventeen senators said they are supportive of the SOGIE Equality Bill, a good news for the LGBTQ community.

Plus points for Colmenares, Diokno and Tañada

Looking at the track record of senatoriables on the defense and promotion of human rights, Colmenares, Diokno and Tanada stand out from the rest.

As a former Bayan Muna representative, Colmenares authored the Republic Act 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act, co-authored the Human Rights Reparation and Recognition Act, Anti-Torture Act, RA 10366 or the Accessible Polling Places for PWDs and Senior Citizens Act.

Desaparecidos, an organization of families of victims of the disappeared, has endorsed Colmenares’ candidacy for being consistent in supporting their call for justice.

Tañada, meanwhile, authored Republic Act 10368, which created the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, and Republic Act 10174, which establishes the People’s Survival Fund to address the problem of climate change. In the 14th Congress, he was chairman of the Committee on Human Rights which acted on several resolutions calling for investigations in aid of legislation on alleged human rights violations.

Diokno, meanwhile, is a long-time member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). Among his clients include NBN/ZTE whistleblower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, torture victims Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, where the petition for writ of amparo was granted by the Supreme Court, “Tagaytay 5” activists who were illegally arrested and detained, among others.

In 2001, Diokno was the private prosecutor in the impeachment proceedings against then-President Joseph Estrada.

In an article, Diokno pointed out many similarities between the pattern of oppression during martial law and the situation today. “During martial law, if you were branded as a Communist, if the government said you didn’t have any rights, you were not a human being, and therefore, you can be killed. Even human rights lawyers were branded as Communists at that time. Nowadays, the branding is different. If you are a criminal, drug addict, drug pusher, then you are not human and you don’t deserve human rights,”he said.

Vote for human rights

This Monday, voters should be reminded of the words of former Senator Jose “Pepe” Diokno, “No cause is more worthy than the cause of human rights. They are what makes a man human. Deny them and you deny man’s humanity.”

The people’s votes this May 13 will serve as a verdict to this administration that has caused so many tears and miseries especially to the poor.


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