OPINION: A poor consolation

Teddy Locsin Jr.

Posted at Apr 14 2017 07:32 PM

One way to address human rights accusations is to change the meaning of human rights violations, calling the same thing by another name like plain old murder. I hope I will never be guilty of using semantics to erase instead of solve real problems. But in fact it was human rights advocates who first used semantics to enlarge human rights violations to include common crimes that government could have or should have prevented. 

Cory Aquino was accused of human rights violations just months after she took office after a really disgusting human rights-violating tyrannical regime she overthrew. An army unit wiped out a hamlet and blew away the hand of a little child. How could she let it happen in her time? 

There was always murder, by ordinary people and officials, by gangs and governments which are often so hard to tell apart. But it was still plain murder, unless government killed selectively on the basis of the victim’s race, religion or political convictions. 

The rest were police operations and manslaughter if they went too far. But the distinction is important. A state cannot be hampered in its choice of solutions to intractable problems, like widening anarchy and proliferating drugs. 

No doubt, liberty of conscience and respect for personal belief deserve special treatment and protection. But sometime in the 1980s human rights advocates found that governments shirked their duty to protect common people from common crimes. This was how governments avoided the political repercussions of failing to address their countries’ social and economic problems. They just let their countries go to hell in a hand basket, hoping that the crimes engendered by privation would be self-eliminating. The poor were left with only 2 choices: be random victims of common crimes that government did little to stop or stick with even the worst governments that protected them from the anarchy of common crimes. Our government is a son of a bitch but it is our son of a bitch. 

And so the human rights duty of governments was enlarged, beyond not violating human rights, to protecting the people most vulnerable to common crimes. And that poses a bit of a problem. 

It makes it harder to distinguish between a relentless but transparent police operation and plain flat out murder by any who take the law in their own hands, like vigilantes. At least, however, our cops do not shoot people just because they are fat, black and slow to run, and therefore easy to hit from behind. But that is surely a very, very poor consolation.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.