COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
One Human Rights Day I tried to light a candle – to keep the fire of struggle burning. Many years back there was the torch parade, the march, and the forum…reassessing, analyzing, and updating the human rights situation in our midst. The yearly celebration was fraught with reports of gory details of dying, legal battles, tales of varied forms of repression, stories of terror, and the consequent protest actions by concerned groups. I guess I stopped listening somewhere.
Earlier that afternoon, I asked a news writer what were the events for the day. She said there were a Peace Caravan and an assembly, of which I was already too late to attend to any. Later, I went to church only to hear the message from the pulpit about human rights in relation to Jesus Christ. Still, I could not listen, with my mind brewing up with a previous thought. I must have been dead or left dying. Maybe, I was numbed. No, detached – an achievement in one’s worldly existence as what the mystics espoused.
But later in the evening, I went over an article about the interrelationship between militarism and human rights, a paper of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo. For it seems that human rights violation only crop up alongside with reports of militarization by government forces. Human rights as an issue itself surfaced prominently during Martial Law; and then, most disturbingly, in recent years.
As a consequence, human rights have been narrowed down to a political issue, a cause only for those directly affected by militarization; activists, suspected rebels, and people from the Left. It seems that should there be a law upholding the right to life, security, to freedom of expression, the law only applies to them. It is a sorry state of affairs that we have to be beaten first before crying “foul.” But human rights issues are basically concerns on how is it to be human and live a human life.
The International Bill of Rights aptly provides the “privileges/entitlements, claims of protection and social security which individuals and human collectives have a legitimate right to assert today.” Generally stated:
“The right to life, liberty and security”
“The right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishments”
“The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”
“The right to freedom of opinion and expression”
“Freedom from fear and want”
“The right to an adequate standard of living”
“The fundamental right to everyone to be free from hunger”
“The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”
“The right of everyone to education”
and the execution of all these rights “without distinction of any kind such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” Further, the Bill features collective solidarity rights such as
“The right for all people to self-determination” and
“The right to peace and development”
Ironically, people in the First World are already advocating animal rights that can even be noted on the labels of their toiletries “not tested on animals,” and laws protecting domestic pets and many other endangered species. And still, here we are, lagging behind in asserting our very own rights as humans.