CHR hopes inequalities exposed by COVID-19 pandemic are addressed
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) hopes that the celebration of this year’s National Human Rights Consciousness Week will highlight the need to address several long-standing inequalities that were exposed even more by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a program on Wednesday, various CHR officials noted the importance of looking at the health crisis from a human rights lens, especially with the pandemic creating inequalities such as in the delivery of healthcare services and vaccines.
“Our survival as human beings is dependent on the preservation of human rights,” CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said in her message. “In the midst of the current pandemic, issues of equality have come to the fore and underlying inequalities in the world and in our different societies have surfaced and have become more pronounced.”
“Inequalities in vaccines, inequalities in healthcare services, inequalities in recovering from the pandemic, inequalities in opportunities in life amidst the pandemic, inequalities in accessing life-saving medicines, and other inequalities and incidents of discrimination have exacerbated our vulnerabilities and have bred further divisions among us,” Dumpit added.
The existence of these inequalities, CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana said, is a reason why the commission continuously works towards raising awareness about human rights and their advocacies, in a push for better lives.
“Our continued engagement with duty-bearers have at times resulted in the re-calibration of their procedures so that it could become more aligned with a human rights-based approach,” Pimentel-Gana said.
“While we have not always been successful in all areas, I am heartened to know that our indefatigable efforts have started to shape the consciousness of our people that many of them now are also advocating our own advocacies within their respective networks. In light of these positive developments, we should continue to press on with our important work,” she added.
For this year’s National Human Rights Consciousness Week, the CHR is adopting the theme “Pagkakapantay-Pantay: Isulong mga Karapatang Pantao sa Panahon ng Pandemya” (Equality: Advocating for Human Rights in the Time of a Pandemic).
CHR said it was adapted from the theme of the United Nations’ Human Rights Day 2021 theme.
“Today is a most opportune time for us to come together to affirm this year’s theme which is a cornerstone principle of human rights: Equality, or in Filipino, Pagkakapantay-pantay,” Dumpit added.
“We are encouraged to combat discrimination; fight for the protection of rights; obtain equal access to opportunities—that is true equality,” said CHR Commissioner Roberto Eugenio Cadiz added.
During the span of the pandemic, CHR has called on the government repeatedly to use a human rights-based approach to law enforcement, after reports of authorities abusing their mandate in the enforcement of quarantine restrictions.
Aside from these violations, there were also incidents of apprehensions made for alleged curfew and quarantine violations that ended in the deaths of violators.
But aside from health-related concerns brought about by the pandemic, Commissioner Cadiz also noted that prior concerns about inequalities — from women and children’s rights, discrimination of persons with disabilities — should also be addressed.
During the earlier part of the COVID-19 crisis, CHR also expressed concerns that the pandemic would bode badly for women and children who are subjected to domestic abuse, as they are forced to spend more time at home due to the lockdown protocols.
For persons with disabilities, the main problem was how to provide services to them as most of the country’s healthcare programs were geared towards ending COVID-19.
“Women’s rights, together with children’s rights, must be advanced. And discrimination of whatever form and kind must be condemned. The rights of People with Disabilities and the wide variety of economic, social, and cultural rights should be obtained without any discrimination whatsoever,” Cadiz said.
“Violators have to be taken to task and be held responsible because they violate rights and laws safeguarding rights. They violate dignity—the inherent worth of the human person upon which the principle of equality rests and finds it utmost meaning,” he added.
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