POSTSCRIPT / June 13, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Call for patriotism, not independence

TRUE national independence is what we as a people think it is, how we verbalize it, and how we live it.

If every June 12 we choose to hypnotize ourselves into thinking and acting as if we are truly a free sovereign nation, then – may God help us in our delusion – we might just feel indeed independent!

But as we scan the past 121 years and look at ourselves today, we hesitate to join the celebration of Independence Day. With the flag-waving, stilted messages and banquets, we seem to claim that we, or our leaders, now think and act without foreign dictation.

This hesitation to play along is not intended to dampen the festive mood. After all, no nation acts freely on the world stage where a motley cast of nations play big and small roles, together, depending on their peculiar circumstances.

A nation’s inability to always act independently is but a larger reflection of the imperfect nature of the human person who, despite his noble aspirations, is still moved by instinct and reflexes occasioned by fear, desire, love and other stimuli.

In the same way that no person is ever totally free, no community or nation is or can be truly independent — especially in this world where nations must coexist and interact with other peoples caught in a common environment.

But even if in that sense we are not fully independent, our leaders are mandated by their oaths to plan, lay down policies and act not on the basis of personal hurts or the expectation of pecuniary benefit, but motivated solely by the higher interests of the people.

In this year’s Independence Day celebration, this plain citizen’s dream – call it delusion if you will – is to see a burst of fierce patriotism among our people and especially our leaders. Let national interest, not personal gain, be our guiding light.

The enemy is already gobbling up bits and pieces of our fair country with the connivance of traitors in our midst.

 UN action on EJKs, abuses pressed

THE GHOSTS of the thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte regime refuse to go away. Their bereaved families and their concerned neighbors here and abroad will not let them be forgotten.

The deny-to-death response of the administration to the documented executions may not be able to muffle the cries for justice. Coverup, legal acrobatics and more repression will just exacerbate emotions.

A reasonable response was suggested by Vice President Leni Robredo who said that if the administration is so sure of its position, it should not hesitate to open the record and allow United Nations examination of the evidence.

She said this as some of the biggest names in human rights inquiries in the UN asked the world body on Friday to conduct an “independent investigation” of what its special rapporteurs said were “unlawful” deaths in President Duterte’s war against illegal drugs.

The proposed opening up for UN scrutiny is apart from an order of the Supreme Court for the Philippine National Police to make available the same record of the alleged EJK cases as petitioned by families of victims.

The stock reaction of Malacañang to any investigation by UN agencies is that the proposed probe is foreign meddling in a purely domestic affair.

In an earlier move to evade UN questions on alleged crimes against humanity, President Duterte had gone to the extent of pulling out the Philippines from the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court before which action had been sought.

Will Duterte take a similar action on this latest move to investigate EJKs by pulling out from the UN altogether? Probably not, considering that the Philippines is a founding member of the UN.

The signing of treaties and conventions and membership in world bodies usually has the effect of some rights of signatory-states being diminished by their agreeing to certain procedures that may impact on their domestic laws or even sovereign rights.

This has been one of the reasons given by US senators for not ratifying some treaties. They usually leave them to be signed by plenipotentiaries of the president as executive agreements, a notch below treaties.

 Big HR names in call for EJK probe

THE CALL for a UN probe said the “scale and seriousness of the reported human rights violations” in the Philippines should prompt the UN Human Rights Commission, composed of 47 nations, to “establish an independent investigation.”

It said: “We have recorded a staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings in the context of the so-called war on drugs, as well as killings of human rights defenders… Very few independent and effective investigations have taken place, independent media and journalists are threatened, the law has been weaponized to undermine press freedom, and the independence of the judiciary is undermined.”

The signatories seeking the investigation include Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Speaking before Filipinos during a trip to Vietnam in 2017, Duterte said he would “slap her in front of you” for “f*cking me and I do not want it.”

Others: Meskerem Geset Techane, chair of the working group of the UNHRC on discrimination against women in law and in professional practice; Hilal Elver, special UN rapporteur on the right to food; Michel Forst, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;

David Kaye, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé, special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, chair and rapporteur of the working group on the arbitrary detention of the UNHRC;

Dainius Pῡras, special rapporteur on the right to health; Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people; Dubravka Šimonović, special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; and Diego García-Sayán, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 13, 2019)

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