By BENITO C. QUILLOY*
We are living in uncertain times brought about by the uncertainties of the pandemic Covid-19. Today respect for human rights and international humanitarian law becomes all the more an important issue. This pandemic should be approached with equanimity and not with panic. And the best way to do this is through education.
The right to information and education for the public on the perils and limitations of COVID-19 are much abused human rights issues today. This is especially true when we hear the highest officials of the land disregard facts and Science when making official statements.
More significantly we are subjected to false assessments of our health and economic situation to deceive us and allow incompetent, corrupt and abusive government officials to continue their hold to power.
It is time to harness our most important resource which is our people – they who toil and experience the daily grind to survive all kinds of odds and difficulties of life. When people are educated and organized into working committees, expect them to take part in mobilizing the public for containment and prevention. They are in a position to find solutions to the localized lockdown in their respective areas because the health of their families is at stake.
Government must listen and involve the local communities not merely in doing the dirty jobs as front liners in the barangay level but also as active participants in decision making and all key areas of governance. They, after all, are the taxpayers who are behind the salaries and perks of our government officials.
But what is happening has been a total negation of what should have been done to focus on our people’s health and economic well-being. The pandemic is being used to curtail our people’s human rights. The passage of the Anti-Terrorism Law, the continuing red-tagging and red-baiting of activists, human rights defenders, church and development workers as well as the government’s deadly war on drugs signal President Rodrigo Duterte’s desire to quell dissent and hold on to power beyond his tenure, even without him actually being an elected official but through his minions.
Once you curtail freedom, social unrest will rise. We have gone through this. Those who are drunk with power never learn from history.
Uphold Human Rights! Harness our People’s Strengths and Resources! Fight Tyranny!
*This is the author’s statement on international human rights day on Dec. 10, 2020. He is a political prisoner currently at the Butuan City Jail, Agusan del Norte.