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Give us back our dignity, say human rights advocates

MANILA, Philippines—People cannot live with dignity if they are jobless, hungry, homeless, and without access to basic services like potable water, the Asia-Europe People’s Forum said in a statement on the observance of the International Human Rights Day Thursday.  

Kampanya para sa Makataong Pamumuhay (KAMP) and other networks of Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF) and the Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP) joined the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates in a protest march in Plaza Miranda this morning. The AEPF and NTSP have an ongoing campaign for transformative social protection.   

Al Obre, co-facilitator of KAMP, said the rights of the millions of Filipinos who live in sub-human conditions are “violated every day that they go hungry and live in squalor.”  

“It is the state’s duty to make sure that its citizens enjoy these rights. These rights are usually fought for, but people who live in abject poverty cannot go beyond their concerns for day-to-day survival,” said AEPF Coordinator for Asia Tina Ebro.  

That is why AEPF is calling on government to actualize the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which it has signed. It also calls on the government to adopt NTSP’s agenda for transformative social protection that advance the principles of equity, inclusion, solidarity, and sustainability, she said.  

“We have a society where people are regularly killed—not only by the violence from a gun but slowly by the violence wrought by poverty which kill the spirit of humanity,” Obre said.   

Initially, Obre said, people must have decent jobs “that will ensure that they lift themselves out of poverty,” reiterating NTSP’s call for the adoption of a labor-intensive growth strategy that does not only create jobs, but also nurtures and protects worker’s rights as human rights.   

“Job placement, job training, assured fair and decent wages, and social protection measures like pension for those who have been disabled, displaced, or retired must be in accordance with the standards of the International Labor Organization,” he said.   

To address hunger, people’s right to food must be ensured. The Network calls for democratic distribution of land through farmer cooperatives, and of grains or crops through grain banks.   

“People’s collective rights to the use and management of resources that sustain their lives must be respected, protected, and fulfilled,” Ebro said.   

NTSP wants universal access to safe and quality essential services.   

“To live a decent life, everyone must have access to humane shelter that is decent, affordable, quality, environment-friendly, and with access to other essential services such as water and electricity,” Obre said.   

He said poor people should not be driven out of the city where government resources are concentrated.   

“Poor people’s right to the city must be recognized. Towards this goal, government must draw up a democratic, people-driven development plan that integrates the poor and prioritizes in-city housing for low-income settlers. Forced eviction must be immediately stopped. And humane shelter must be ensured in times of disaster,” he said, citing the recent weather disturbances of Ondoy, Pepeng, and Santi that have driven many Filipinos out of their homes.   

On education and health, the NTSP said the government must deliver on its mandate of education for all and universal health care.  

“Following the standard set by the UNESCO, six percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) must be allocated for education, and another six percent for prevention and cure, for health education, and for reproductive health,” the NTSP said.  

Citing statistics from the United Nations Development Programme, AEPF said that as of 2008, some 10 million Filipinos do not have access to safe drinking water. Government figures, on the other hand, indicate that 20 million either do not have jobs or are underemployed.   

“Imagine a society where all have opportunity to achieve their potential. Perhaps we will be able to cure the deadliest diseases, reverse the effects of climate change, do unimaginably great things for humanity. We can do this if all the people enjoy their human rights, starting with a life with dignity,” Ebro said.  


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