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On International Human Rights Day

Speaking up on vital issues is a shared responsibility, CHR tells Filipinos

/ 07:01 PM December 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A Commission on Human Rights (CHR) official reminded Filipinos on Thursday, International Human Rights Day, that it is their responsibility to continue speaking on vital issues as the world gears for a better future amid the pandemic.

CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said in her message on Thursday that Filipinos should not forget that making things better is a shared responsibility, despite the series of events in 2020 — from the Taal Volcano explosion, the COVID-19 crisis, and the recent typhoons — which can dampen spirits.

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Dumpit said that it is everybody’s duty to ensure that human rights are protected and upheld despite the events that unfolded in 2020.

“These times, they say, seem to be hopeless times. During the first quarter of the year, our country already experienced calamities that tested the Filipino spirit […] There is really so much reason for our hope to waiver. However, amidst this possibility of a silent night this Christmas, we see that a new dawn is coming and things can only get better,” Dumpit said.

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“Yes, things can get better. It is our responsibility to make things better.  It is also our responsibility to keep in mind that there are matters that we should not keep silent about.  Specifically, it is our duty to uphold everyone’s human rights in these times of crisis,” she added.

According to Dumpit, the public must watch out whether the government’s obligations are fulfilled, especially relating to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and helping people recover economically.

“In this time of public emergency and calamity, the government has core obligations on the right to health that relate to the delivery of emergency health care, which are access to health facilities, goods, and services on a non-discriminatory basis, provision of essential drugs, equitable distribution of all health facilities and the adoption and implementation of a national public health strategy,” Dumpit explained.

“In the coming year, it is important to ensure that there is vaccine equity and vaccine efforts are speedy, quick, and effective. While we acknowledge in this pandemic that everyone is a right-holder of the right to health, this public challenge must also recognize inter-related human rights standards and identification of groups suffering from a greater denial of rights […],” she added.

Just recently, CHR admitted that their obligation to ensure human rights of people are protect has become even more pressing with the COVID-19 pandemic, as the health crisis highlighted the societal divides even more, as some people struggled to adapt to restrictions.

This is also the reason why CHR believes that the government plays an important role in addressing the needs of those from vulnerable sectors, to level the playing field.

“A human rights-based approach to health is essential to uphold and respect human dignity. Human rights standards and principles should be mainstreamed at all stages of health programming. A human rights-based analysis focuses on the condition of the most affected,” Dumpit said.

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“This pandemic exposed the underlying multiple disadvantaged situation of people and the multilayered inequalities in society. In line with this, we must give specialized attention to vulnerable groups. These include internally displaced persons, the indigenous cultural communities, older persons, persons with disabilities, and persons deprived of liberty,” she noted.

While several restrictions were needed to minimize or avoid coronavirus transmissions, a lot of groups have pointed out that the regulations seem to put vulnerable sectors at a disadvantage.

For example, human rights issues still surfaced despite CHR continuously reminding government about respect for human rights, aside from providing consideration for people drastically affected by the restrictions brought by the pandemic.

Concerns were raised over supposedly harsh curfew penalties, like in the case of Mexico Pampanga where violators were asked to dance provocatively — supposedly as an affront to members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Last April, Quezon City police was criticized after a cop shot dead a retired Army officer suffering from mental health conditions, for allegedly breaking quarantine protocols.

“We aim to engage the public and our partners to bolster transformative action and showcase practical and inspirational examples that can contribute to recovering better and fostering more resilient and just societies,” Dumpit said.

“Human Rights are instrumental to recovery and human rights should not be forgotten in recovery efforts,” she further said.

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TAGS: Commission on Human Rights, Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit, free speech, Human rights, International Human Rights Day
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