CHR to anti-SONA groups: Government respects your rights
MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Etta Rosales said the Aquino administration respects the human rights of those who openly oppose the government as she expressed disappointment for violent incidents at a State of the Nation Address (SONA) protest rally on Monday, July 22.
Protestors and police clashed along a blocked portion of Commonwealth Avenue hours before President Benigno S. Aquino delivered his SONA in the Lower House.
“The skirmishes that took place was unfortunate because it was not necessary. It could have been avoided,” Rosales told Rappler.
Rosales said that the militant groups present in the protest did not attend a dialogue organized by the Philippine National Police (PNP) before the SONA.
“We were all present--the CHR, PNP and the Quezon City government--to set the rules and regulations. We invited the organized groups but they did not attend. Only two were there,” she maintained.
Rosales also shunned the militant groups’ accusations that they were not granted a space to protest.
“It’s already their default that their rights will not be upheld. It’s not a question of permit. It was given,” Rosales maintained.
Speaking from experience
Rosales, an activist during the Marcos dictatorship, said that unlike under Martial Law, the government respects the right of people to assemble.
“We cannot compare this government during the time of Martial Law. You have to assert your place before. You were denied your space then. But now it’s different. Your rights were recognized,” she added.
The former political prisoner recalled that she also used to join violent protests before. She insisted, however, that times have changed.
“There was destruction of property (during the SONA protests). In the earlier days, those assertions were correct. Today, you are not being deprived your right.”
Much needed dialogue
Rosales insisted that a peaceful dialogue is needed to have a mutual understanding of the problem.
“Mag-usap tayo! Harapan. Tapatan!” she said. (Let’s talk about it face to face.)
“Let’s get everybody on board and let’s set the rules and regulations so that the basic constitutional rights will be upheld for all parties.”
Rosales agreed that the SONA should not be one-sided and that the concerns of the people must be heard.
“What is the SONA for? We can agree or disagree with what the President says. We should always be critical of our government. We can have our own state of the nation but we can do this constructive, critically and peacefully,” she maintained.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary-general Nato Reyes Jr. challenged the CHR to conduct an “honest” investigation.
“CHR is not conducting any honest investigation because up to now, we have not received any word from them,” Reyes said.
“They have not bothered contacting us. Eh kami yung nasa ground, yung mga pinupukpok. Bakit siya kumakampi sa mga pulis?” (They have not bothered contacting us. We were the ones on the ground, the ones who were beaten. Why is she siding with the police?)
Reyes said they were surprised by the results of the Commission's initial investigation. He said Rosales' statement showed her biases.
“Lumalabas yung true colors ni Etta. She is biased toward the Aquino government. Her decisions are tainted by her ideological bias against groups like us,” said Reyes. (Etta’s true colors are showing. She is biased toward the Aquino government. Her decisions are tainted by her ideological bias against groups like us.)
“Kausapin nila kami! Hindi yung nag-iissue sila ng mga statement ng walang basis,” Reyes concluded. (They should talk to us. They should not issue baseless statements.)
BAYAN and other militant groups spearheaded the anti-SONA protests on July 22. They accuse the Aquino administration of violating the human rights of members of progressive groups. - Rappler.com