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CURRENT HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN THE PHILIPPINES: IS IT

PROGRESSING or RETROGESSING?

Submitted to Atty. Irene Valones

Submitted by Jalaine B. Aratan

Human Rights Law

Sunday, 8:00 am – 10:00 am


What are Human Rights?

According to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Human rights are rights
inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex,
national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all
equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all
interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

Human Rights indivisible whether they are political or civil rights, meaning that a
government must do its part to ensure that the economic, civil and social rights of the
people will be protected and if the government would fail to observe such, the
exercise of the people’s right may be affected if there would be a violation by the
government. Another characteristic of Human Rights is it is universal meaning that it
is for everyone, it is not exclusive based on nationality, place of residence, sex, ethnic
origin, colour, religion, language or any status, third is human rights are
interdependent, it is interdependent because human rights are related to one another,
they are inter related and co- important with one another, Human Rights is inalienable
meaning a person cannot repudiate its rights and not available for the commerce of
man.

Human Rights in the Philippines

For the last few years, the human rights situation in the Philippines can be compared
to a roller coaster, there are some wins while there are also some loses in the process.

One of the most talk about issue on human rights, is the extra-legal killing in the
Philippines due drug related crimes. One of the most talked about not only in the
Philippines but also garner the world’s attention is the “Oplan Tokhang” or mostly
known for Tokhang, Tokhang is a bisaya word which means knock, supposedly the
purpose of tokhang is to knock on drug suspects in their respective homes, police men
will knock on the doors of the houses of the people whom they believe are part of
drug trades, it is supposedly a verbal warning to drug suspects. However, what
happened was the total opposite of supposedly a “verbal warning”, for each passing
day that passed, it seems that a tailored story amongst policemen all over the
Philippines circulate, for months, the news on the television are all the same
“Dalawang lalake nanlaban, patay.”

The usual story or news goes like this, allegedly when the policemen start knocking
the door of the drug suspects, they will hesitate to open the door and fight back to the
policemen with their guns. This is the usual scenario that the policemen narrate to the
media. In my opinion, it was believable for the first five stories or news in the
television but when the tenth story came in and it is still the same scenario, it is no
longer genuine and believable. There are already loopholes in the stories that the
policemen are narrating the people, for instance, in all the “tokhang” victims, there are
only two types of guns that were confiscated and all the victims are always “nanlaban”
and I asked myself how come the policemen could not control the “tokhang” scenario,
if most of the time they will go there in big groups, are they always outnumbered,
despite of the number of the victims are usually one to two persons.

Effect of “Tokhang” on people

During the first month of the implementation of tokhang, there are Filipinos who are
happy with the results of it since they believe that change is really coming but as the
months go on, when the increasing number of the victims are already increasing by
hundreds every day, they now felt alarmed, we all felt alarmed.

Filipinos are scared because the supposedly “tokhang” for drug criminals are now also
to eradicate innocent people who are against policemen. These are people who before
was a resource person for the police, someone who use to tell the policemen, who are
the drug users but since they know a lot already, they should be eradicate because if
they will live longer, they can expose the policemen and ruin their name.
I myself, supposedly, feel safe on what was happening but instead of feeling safe, I
felt scared and unsecured of my own country, Philippines, the country I dearly love.

For the past few months, when “tokhang” is at its peak, I’m scared to go out of my
home not because I’m part of any drug related crime, it is because I’m afraid of my
life, I heard a lot of stories wherein even the innocent will be killed as long as the
policemen “believe” that you are part of the any drug related crime but what affects
me the most is I’m scared for my family, there is a phase in my life that I’m afraid to
leave my family because I’m scared that when I leave and go back home, they are no
longer there. I don’t want to be an orphan. I may sound paranoid, but these are only
some of the effects of “oplan tokhang” to myself.

Let’s imagine how the other Filipinos are feeling and experiencing, the anxiety they
are feeling every day.

This is based on a true story, one day while I was inside a taxi, the driver and I had a
chit chat and asked about life’s whereabouts. I asked him what’s his take on “tokhang”
and without hesitation he answered me “Nakakatakot, ma’am” He mentioned that in
their place in Navatos, there a phase where in the barangay will discovered a dead
body for each day of the week and like the same typical story in the news, the victims
were allegedly fought back, that’s why they were killed. There were also victims that
were thrown in their place with cards over their body stating “Adik ako, wag tularan”.

What if that person is not really a drug addict? What if that person is really innocent?
Where’s the due process in this kind of situation?

In the same conversation, the driver told me he believes that it is true that there are
innocent people that were just victims of “tokhang”. He shared to me the story of his
neighbour, these neighbour of him has been working in Taiwan for almost a decade
and just decided to go back to the Philippines for a vacation but during his first week
of vacation, he was killed and a card was put over his body saying that he is a drug
addict but later on it was figured based on the investigation that the killing of this
person is not drug related but it was due to a love affair and the policemen who killed
him just used the alibi that he is a drug user to kill him which he is not, when the
driver told this story, it broke my heart into pieces.

I also asked him on the status of those family that has a family member was killed due
to tokhang, he told me that there is still no progress, the family is still searching for
justice but there are also families that just gave up and put their fate on God’s hands.
The story that I narrated is probably only less than 1% of those who have experienced
tokhang first hand, those whose neighbours, friends, classmates, family members were
killed, only less than 1% of those people that lives will be forever damaged because of
what happened to them, with everything that is happening, I managed to question and
analysed the situation.

One of the common denominators here is that the people that are killed are part of the
poor family, those people who believe that justice are only for those powerful and who
has money. Probably, there are only a number of news that I heard a story during the
sage of the “oplan tokhang” that there were “drug lords” that were killed, if there were
news, most of them will tell that the accuse were put to jail but in reality these are the
people that can afford high calibrated guns, these are people who probably has
bodyguards that can outnumbered the policemen doing the ‘oplan tokhang” but there
were no news that they fought back.

Is it because they are living in an exclusive subdivision but it should not be like that.
Each one of us should be treated fairly and equally. Policemen should not look on how
the status of someone.

With everything that is happening, one can conclude that “oplan tokhang” are only for
the less marginalized or the poor people or families and those people who are all
behind of these illegal drug crimes are seating comfortably and can sleep tight at night
while those who are below them are very uncurtain on what will happen to them as
well as to with their family.

In my opinion, there are two events that change “oplan tokhang” in the Philippine
scenario, two events that change everyone’s view on “tokhang”. It was on the year of
2017 around September when a 17 year old boy was killed during a drug operation,
the news broke out like a wild fire when Kian Santos who was underage was killed on
anti drug operation and there were different CTV footages showing that Kian was
abused by the Caloocan policemen moments before he was killed. In the reports
provided by the policemen, Kian fought back. However, the CCTV provide the
different story, per the CCTV footages, witnesses claim that Delos Santos was just
loitering near his house at around 8:00 p.m., when two unidentified men grabbed him
and led him away. The barangay's CCTV footage of the incident shows that at
8:24 p.m., a young man believed to be Delos Santos was being dragged by two men in
plainclothes towards the area where his corpse would be later found. The video also
showed a third man that headed towards the same direction. i

What happened to Kian Santos raise a public uproar, especially on social media
platforms such as Twitter and Facebook saying that the government must do
something to stop the extra-legal killings that happening in our country. There were
also protest that happened for Kian.

Those that was involved in the killing of Kian Santos was relieved in their position,
there was also an autopsy was conducted on August 20, showed that Delos Santos
sustained three gunshot wounds: the first entry point was at the back of the head, the
second entry point was behind the left ear and the third entry point was inside the left
ear which prompted the family of Kian Santos to file a case against the policemen of
Caloocan.1 Last November 29, 2018, the four policemen that was involved in the Kian
Santos case were sentenced guilty of murdering Kian Santos. They are sentenced to
reclusion perpetua, or imprisonment for 20 to 40 years, without eligibility for parole.

1
Cahiles, Gerg (August 18, 2017). "17-year-old student gunned down by cops in anti-drug operations". Metro
Manila: CNN Philippines. Retrieved 12 Decemeber 2018
The conviction of the policemen gave hope to Filipinos who are already losing faith in
our country especially to our justice system, it lights out the dying fire amongst
Filipino especially those who were victims of extra legal killing, especially to their
families whose hearts ad memories will be forever tainted with the horror that they
were able to experience. The late Kian Santos serve as the light to the dying hope, a
light to the very dark justice system that we have right now. The death of Kian Santos
was probably one of the biggest downfalls of the human rights in our country and the
irony that the conviction of those people who were involve are also the victory of the
Filipinos.

Another incident would be the killing of the Korean inside Camp Crame, Jeck Ick Joo,
was a South Korean businessman who was kidnapped on October 18, 2016 and later
found dead within the grounds of Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine
National Police.

South Korean Jee Ick-Joo, a businessman, along with his house helper, was reportedly
kidnapped by two unidentified men from Jee's residence in Friendship Plaza
Subdivision, Angeles, Pampanga on October 18, 2016. After their arrest, the
kidnappers—who turned out to be members of the Philippine National Police (PNP)—
accused Jee of being involved in the illegal drug trade. Jee's wife, Choi Kyung-jin,
made the statement that the kidnappers Patrick Joseph Banez demanded a ransom
of ₱8 million, and she reportedly paid ₱5 million on October 30, 2016. She said she
did not give the kidnappers the remaining ₱3 million when they failed to present proof
that Jee was still alive. 2

In this incident, then PNP chief Ronald Bato offered his resignation to President
Duterte. However, the President did not accept the resignation due to the reason that
Bato cannot be blamed for the killing of the South Korean because those people who
are involved are not part of the Bato’s team hence he counld not be liable. The
president said his apologies to South Korean for what has happened.

2
Lope, Virgil (17 January 2017). "NBI Says Kidnapped South Korean Businessman is Dead". GMA News.
Retrieved 12 December 2018
Then Housespeaker Alvarez called out Bato to resign his position which prompted
him to submit his resignation which was refused by the President Duterte.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned officials of the Philippine
Embassy in South Korea to convey their deep concern over the killing of Jee Ick-Joo;
no diplomatic protest was filed, however. The South Korean government, through its
ministry, also called for the quick resolution of the case so that the perpetrators can be
held accountable and to increase measures to ensure the safety of South Korean
nationals in the Philippines. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs are
cooperating with their South Korean counterparts over the case. 3

With this incident, oplan toking quite slow down. I can remember for almost a month,
there was a decreasing number of drug related news or tokhang news because of this
incident.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, Human Rights in the Philippines is netither progressing or retrogressing,


but one thing is for sure it is changing. We could not really measure the progress or
the retrogress of Human Rights in the Philippines. Change is the only thing constant in
Human Rights. Human rights in the Philippines is really complicated, it changes from
now and then, like other rights, there are challenges that it is facing, like other rights
there are people abusing it while some people are not given the chance to exercise
rights due to different factors. In the Philippines, those who are less marginalized
believes that their rights are below others because they are poor which should not their
thinking. However, we could not blame them because in reality, there are times
wherein the poor are not provided justice because everything seem impossible when a
person doesn’t have money.

In this paper, it does not aim to tell its readers that all those thar were killed in oplan
tokhang are not guilty, as a Filipino, what I want to happen is that, the accused are
given the right to heard or basically the basic rights of the accused, I want them to
3
del Callar, Michaela (19 January 2017). "DFA vows speedy resolution of Jee Ick Joo case". GMA News. Retrieved 12
December 2018
have a due process, which in the last few years were totally forgotten by some of the
law enforces that we have.

I am a strong believer that ending someone life is not the solution in fixing a crime,
killing people without due process is not only problematic in its own way but it is also
instilling fear among other Filipinos.

There are some wins and losses for the Human Rights situation in the Philippines, it
only means that there are still hope for everything because there are changers. It may
seem complicated and hard to do but each one of us should uses these changes as and
advantage meaning that we are not stuck in the same position, we have a progress as a
nation and country despite of the times that we may seem that we are not moving
forward with all that is happening in then Philippines like all other things these are
only temporary setbacks and there are million ways for us to move on and move
forward with all the goals of our country especially the Human Rights sector, us
Filipinos must understand what is going on with our country, we have the
responsibility especially to our fellow Filipinos that we are all equal that no age, sex,
gender and economic status will hinder us in practicing our rights as Filipinos because
as what I have mentioned earlier in this paper, human rights are universal, it is for
everyone.

Despite of everything that is happening around us, we human beings are still lucky
because we are given human rights; rights that we can exercise for our whole
existence in this world. However, these rights should not be abused by ourselves, We
should not take everything for granted because we will never know what can happen
in the future. We must not always rebel against the state when there are ordinances or
laws that somehow regulate our rights because these are only some of their preventive
measure in ensuring that it wont be chaotic in the future or let’s just say it is for our
future as well.

Philippines is not a perfect country neither near perfect but we, Filipinos are still lucky
because our county is one of the countries that honour human rights. The Philippines
is signatory to different treaties that promote human rights. At the end of the day, we
filipinos should be thankful, our country as well are government are not perfect but
there are still people who works to see the real changes they want to happen in our
country. These are the people who truly love our country and want it to change for the
better and as Filipinos, we should never give up on our mother land because I believe
that no one can love our dear country, we Filipinos are the only one that can love and
protect our country genuinely and whole heartedly.
i