MANILA — Vice-President Leni Robredo on Thursday urged Filipinos to fight for human rights, especially for the voiceless, who she said play a crucial role amid a health crisis that the country is facing.
But Robredo said the fight for human rights has become even more relevant today, even if it has become “more difficult” in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And in this time of crisis, when it is often tempting to brush aside human rights in pursuit of expediency, that struggle becomes even more important,” Robredo’s message for this year’s International Human Rights Day celebration read.
“Fighting for the rights of the voiceless, the powerless, the unpopular, or even simply those on the other side of an increasingly vicious political divide, has never been more difficult, but also, never more critical.”
She said the fight for human rights leads people to be accountable and compassionate with one another, most especially when one’s “worth and dignity” are acknowledged in the middle of the pandemic.
“We need to stand up for human rights if we are to recover better . . . Sa pagtataguyod sa mga karapatan natin, nabubuo ang pagmamalasakit, ang pananagutan para sa isa’t isa, ang pakikipagkapwa,” she said.
(By fighting for our rights, we create an environment of compassion, accountability for each other, and fellowship.)
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“Ito mismo ang landas tungo sa isang better normal: Pulling together through the acknowledgment of the worth and dignity of every individual.”
(This is the path towards a better normal.)
Robredo had earlier urged leaders to hear the plight of Filipinos on the ground and to build “deep and authentic” connections as the country continued to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and reel from the aftermath of recent typhoons.
The country’s civic space rating for this year, meanwhile, has been downgraded by international watchdog Civicus Monitor, citing the passage of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act, attacks against the media, and the alleged killings and vilification of activists in the past year.
President Rodrigo Duterte in July passed the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law, which has been criticized by various rights groups.
A total of 37 petitioners have challenged its constitutionality before the Supreme Court due mainly to its vague definition of terrorism and the expansive powers granted to the Anti-Terrorism Council.
In late August, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on President Rodrigo Duterte to "refrain" from signing the controversial measure, citing its potential "chilling effect" on humanitarian and human rights work.