Human Rights Violation in the Philippines: Challenges and Solutions

Argumentative essay about human rights in the Philippines

“No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws” [Art. III Sec. 1]. This is from the Bill of Rights, Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, designed to preserve and protect the rights of the citizens against the Powers of the State. In the Philippines, human rights violation is a topic of much concern, with the current administration under President Rodrigo Duterte coming under heavy criticism for its handling of the country's drug problem. While the government's anti-drug campaign has resulted in a decrease in drug cases, there have been reports of extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses, which have sparked widespread outrage and condemnation both locally and internationally. To explore the problem of human rights violation in the Philippines, this essay will examine the various issues surrounding the Duterte administration's approach to the drug problem and its impact on human rights, as well as exploring potential solutions to address these concerns.

During Duterte’s inauguration speech, he stated, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself”, blatantly urging the people to kill whomever they believe is affiliated with drugs. This instigated the rampant killings in the country by both PNP and vigilantes, without people undergoing due processes in the court of law. He also gave authority for the police to ‘shoot to kill’ those who resist arrest, thereby giving them free reign to use their gun on civilians they presume to be involved in the drug trade. “The employment of physical, psychological, or degrading punishment against any prisoner or detainee or the use of substandard or inadequate penal facilities under subhuman conditions shall be dealt with by law” [Art. III. Sec. 19. (2)]. According to Section 19 (2) of the Bill of Rights, prisoners have a right to be detained in an adequate enough prison, one that doesn’t compromise their own rights whilst in custody. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs) states that “All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation” [SMR rule no. 13].

Unfortunately, prisons with aforementioned conditions are rarely found in the country. In fact, it is observed to be quite the opposite: there is a distinct shortage of food rations, overwhelming increase of prisoners, and a severe lack of facilities to detain them. This can be summed up by the situation at Quezon City Jail, a facility built to allot only 800 inmates in the city jail, currently holding more than 3,800 inmates in a place that can only hold 21% of that. The urgent need of reformation should be a priority in order to remedy the pitiful situation these prisoners are in. This situation is observed to stem from the failure to uphold the Filipinos’ right to a speedy disposition of cases’, Section 16 of the Bill of Rights, stating that “All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies” [Art. III. Sec. 16]. This is a direct issue in regards to the Philippines’ slow justice system that takes numerous months and even years for legal processes and trials, due to the fact that there is a major lack of lawyers in the agency, extreme overflow of cases, and the immense pressure put upon the shoulders of each advocate of the law.

Regrettably, this situation doesn’t seem to be on top priority of President, with him claiming, “Ours is unlike positivist theory wherein those who served time in prison can be rehabilitated. They don’t want to be out of prison. . . they are already monsters. ” This is a disturbing perspective on the matter at hand, especially since the ones he claims are “monsters” are still citizens of the country he’s pledged to protect. “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law” [Art. III. Sec. 14. (1)]. Both (1) and (2) of Section 14 was violated in one of the most controversial issues in the current administration: the death of Kian Delos Santos. Last August 16, 2017, 17-year old grade 11 student, Kian Loyd Delos Santos, was found dead with a gunshot in his head. He was killed at an anti-illegal drug operation by four Caloocan police officers claiming that he was a drug runner who fought back during said operation.

This instigated massive protest among the people, and even Duterte himself admitted that even if there was evidence, “it does not justify the killing”. The court also ruled out to file charges of murder and planting of illegal drugs and firearms against said officers. The ongoing Philippine Drug War has gravely affected our country, and will continue to do so, with these evidences backing up the violations of the most integral and fundamental part of the Philippine Constitution, that is of protecting human rights in the country. We find it definitely crucial that we, as Filipinos, are aware of the issues regarding the failure of upholding human rights in the Philippines especially since we are directly involved in this matter. Awareness among us citizens is essential in order to make way to reforms and amendments conforming to the needs of our community without risking our safety. We should fight for what is due to us, because, as Filipinos, we who constantly fight for our rights and for our freedom, should not have to experience fighting for it again. And we, as humans, should not settle for our rights to be compromised by the very people who pledged to fight for what’s right for us, and for our country.

18 May 2020
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