Robredo: Nothing wrong with speaking dissent

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2017 05:45 PM | Updated as of Mar 23 2017 06:09 PM

Philippines Vice President Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo is seen during the “Istorya ng Pag-asa” launch held at the Quezon City Hall in Quezon City, Metro Manila on 20 March 2017. Allan Gomez, NPPA

MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday said democracy in the country and around the world is in crisis and urged lawyers to be at the forefront of restoring faith in the government.

In a speech at the national convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Robredo, a long-time human rights lawyer before running for public office, noted what seems to be an attack on the freedom to dissent. 

"There is nothing wrong with speaking dissent. It is our right, sometimes our burden," she said.

While she did not specifically mention it in her speech, Robredo is facing criticisms and threats of possible impeachment for her video message to the United Nations about the extrajudicial killings in the country.

The Vice President said that apart from solving street crimes, the government should focus on improving the people's quality of life by protecting their rights and strengthening institutions such as the judiciary.

"I wonder when we started forsaking the truth. At what point did we begin to regress into the mindset that we can begin to take the freedom of others into our own hands," she said.

"The common denominator of this abuse of regulations is poverty. If we as a people redirect our political will and resources to long-lasting solutions for poverty instead of the more divisive wars we are waging now, no one loses," she added.

She said the judiciary is suffering from slow resolution of cases and heavy caseloads while getting only less than 2% of the annual budget.

But, she added, transforming the judiciary is only as valuable as accessibility to the people. She said Filipinos must know the law and their rights, and should be given assurance that the law is fair. She added there must be avenues to seek justice. 

Robredo also believes institutions like the Commission on Human Rights must be strengthened.

She challenged lawyers in her audience to be on the side of human rights and freedom.

"Now more than ever the Philippines needs its lawyers to have the audacity, the courage and tenacity to be on the side of human rights and freedom," she said.

"Let us safeguard our Constitution against abuses, prevent our institutions from weakening and save our people from their disillusionment," she added.