‘Maging matapang tayo’: CHR urges public to stay vigilant, uphold democracy

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2022 11:53 PM

MANILA – An outgoing official of the Commission of Human Rights urged the public to stay vigilant and to continue upholding democracy amid fears that the upcoming administration of Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. would be similar to that of his father's dictatorship.

Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana said the public's apprehension about another Marcos presidency is understandable, considering the history of human rights violations during the regime of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

"Hindi naman natin pwedeng sabihin, i-preempt natin na there will be human rights violations sa term ni magiging presidenteng Bongbong Marcos 'no, pero katulad ng sinabi mo, may kasaysayan kasi, may nangyari noon, at hindi ko nakita na during his campaign, na hindi tayo maging kabado, kasi parang ang palagi niyang referal eh 'yung golden age ng martial law Sa lahat ng kaniyang pronouncements sinasabi niya, gusto ko pareho noon, ito 'yung maganda, etcetera," she told Teleradyo Wednesday.

(We cannot say, we cannot preempt that there will be human rights violations during the term of incoming president Bongbong Marcos, but like what you said, there is history, a lot happened before, and during his campaign, we cannot be at ease because he always referred to the martial law period as a golden age. He always said he wants it to be similar to that period, that it was good, etcetera.)

"Pero hindi ba natin alam na ang daming nangyari noong martial law na katotohan, katulad noong maraming nawala, maraming namatay, maraming na-torture, maraming korapsyon, etcetera. 'Yun ba ang kaniyang ibig sabihin?" Pimentel-Gana added.

(But don't we know the truth that during the martial law period, there were a lot of disappearances, there were a lot of deaths, there were a lot who were tortured, there was corruption, etcetera. Is that what he means?)

Instead of being afraid, Pimentel-Gana said the people should be vigilant and to monitor what will happen, considering that Marcos Jr. has yet to assure the people that his administration will be different.

"So ang gusto natin ay talagang bantayan kung anong mangyayari. Hindi natin sinasabi na magkakaroon, pero ang point of reference is, wala akong nakita noong nangampanya siya na would make me, para bang, kampante, na hindi mangyayari ang mga nangyari noon," she said.

(So what we want is to monitor what will happen. I am not saying that there will be human rights violations, but the point of reference is, I haven't seen anything during his campaign that would make me feel at ease that the same things won't happen again.)

She also said that what might make a difference now is the vibrant media and the active civil society, which may help prevent any possible violation of human rights.

"Ang diperensya na nakikta ko, sa panahon ng martial law at sa ngayon, we have a vibrant media. We have a civil space, with civil society na very active and very vocal. And I think this will help in curbing whatever it is na mangyayari na kung ano mang violation o abuses," Pimentel-Gana said.

(The difference I can see now, we have a vibrant media. We have a civil space, with civil society that's very active and very vocal. And I think this will help in curbing whatever human rights violation or abuse that may happen.)

"Kasi nakikita ko na engaged tayong lahat eh. Unlike noong time ng martial law, naka-zip, nakatali ang ating mga kamay, ang ating mga boses ay talagang quelled, you know, because nga of martial law at takot tayo. Pero ngayon because of the media, and democracy is alive, then I am hopeful na hindi na mangyayari ang nangyari noon," she added.

(What I can see now is that we are all engaged. Unlike before during martial law, everyone's hands are tied, we cannot speak up because we are afraid of martial law. But now because of the media, and democracy is alive, then I am hopeful that those things will not happen again.)

Pimentel-Gana likewise expressed hope that the new set of commissioners that will be appointed by the incoming administration will remain independent.

"I hope the Commission on Human Rights will still be independent. Alam ninyo, ang nag-aappoint ng commissioners, lima, ay ang presidente. So I hope he will follow the standards set in the Paris Principles, international standards ng pagpili ng mga commissioners to ensure that there will be independence," she said.

(I hope the Commission on Human Rights will still be independent. The president appoints 5 commissioners, so I hope he will follow the standards set in the Paris Principles, international standards in choosing commissioners to ensure that there will be independence.)

"It would really depend on the next set of commissioners kung anong klaseng CHR magkakaroon tayo," she added.

(It would really depend on the next set of commissioners as to what kind of CHR we will have.)

Instead of being afraid, the public should stay vigilant and outspoken.

"Ang sa akin is that dapat hindi tayo matakot tumindig at magsalita. 'Yun ang importante. We have to be vigilant, kasi of course, as you said, mayroong mga nangyari sa past," Pimentel-Gana said.

(Right now we shouldn't be afraid to speak up and stand up. That's what's important. We have to be vigilant, of course, because of what happened in the past.)

"So dapat magbantay tayo at magsalita tayo. We have democracy then we must make use of the democracy that we have now, that we are enjoying now. Huwag nating pabayaan. So dapat ang pangamba ay maalis at maging matapang tayo," she added.

(So now we have to be vigilant and to speak up. We have democracy then we must make use of the democracy that we have now, that we are enjoying now. We shouldn't waste it. We should not worry and we have to be brave.)

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The CHR has a rocky relationship with President Rodrigo Duterte, especially on the issue of the war on drugs and the alleged extrajudicial killings connected to it.

Marcos' impending ascent to the country's top post came 36 years after his family was chased out of the country with the ouster of his father, former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., through the People Power Revolution.

His father's rule was marred by human rights abuses and massive corruption, issues that the family downplays.

Many groups, including victims of his father's Martial Law that was implemented starting 1972, have challenged Marcos' presidential bid. Some filed petitions at the Comelec seeking either for his disqualification over his tax conviction in the 1990s, or cancellation of his candidacy. The poll body, however, junked the cases.

As of 6:17 p.m. of May 11, Marcos is still leading the presidential race by a wide margin of up to 17 million votes over his closest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo.

Marcos, who promoted the message of unity all throughout his campaign, got 31,091,049 votes, while Robredo, who advocated for good governance, obtained 14,815,192 votes.

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