Press Release
May 19, 2018

Dialogue with Legislators and Human Rights

Institutions International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) and Akbayan Youth activity




12 May 2018, Luxent Hotel, Timog Ave., Quezon City

Good morning to all of you.

I wish to thank the International Union of Socialist Youth and Akbayan Youth for this honor to speak before you today. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances imposed upon me, I could not be there to personally convey my message of solidarity to all of you.

To our foreign guests, you probably know by now my situation and how this Duterte administration used the State machinery to unjustly detain me on trumped-up drug charges because I dared speak out against the human rights violations of this regime. But they failed to silence me, instead, they gave me more reason to fight back.

I was jailed not because they have valid evidence against me but because I, as head of the Senate's Committee on Justice and Human Rights initiated an inquiry into the summary killings related to the Duterte government's war on drugs back in July 2016. At that time, the number of drug suspects killed during police operations and by masked assassins were just around 150 but by the end of 2017, it exponentially increased to 20,322 as reported by the Philippine National Police.

Another reason is that this vindictive President has an axe to grind against me. Way back in 2009, in my capacity as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), I investigated the rampant extra-judicial killings of crime suspects including youth offenders in Davao City under the watch of then mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

So, human rights is the real bone of contention between me and the President. This government has publicly maligned and threatened not only me but individuals and institutions, including foreigners like Sr. Patricia Fox who are vocal champions of human rights.

They are doing this because they know that human rights is the formidable roadblock to this regime's agenda to monopolize and hold on to power beyond the limits set by the 1987 Constitution. We also witnessed how the rule of law and due process were bastardized to persecute political opponents and wrest control of independent institutions like what is happening now to Chief Justice Sereno of the Supreme Court.

With these intensifying attempts to disregard human rights, comes the greater challenge to stand by it and defend it at all costs. Some are saying that because of Duterte's popularity, human rights advocacy is a lost cause. On the contrary, I fervently believe that the fight for human rights is so fundamental that we cannot give up on this under any circumstances.

This grim human rights situation is not exclusive to the Philippines as we witness the rise of populist leaders, the resurgence of xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments in developed countries and the worsening inequality across nations and people.

But I am not daunted. I have not given up on this battle because this is about standing up for the truth and for what is just and right. And besides, I know that I am not alone. I am especially elated when I see young people like you, coming together to register their voices and make a difference.

I have always been inspired by youth groups putting their idealism and boundless energy to good use by combatting racism, sexism, killings and other forms of human rights violations whenever and wherever they encounter such transgressions.

Thus, allow me to join you as we both dream and work for a just and humane society that respects, protects and fulfill the dignity and rights of every person without discrimination and without leaving anyone behind.

Lastly, please convey my sincerest thanks to your comrades, the members of Party of European Socialists and also the European Parliament for coming out with a resolution calling for my immediate release and urging the Philippine government to allow me to perform my mandate as a senator.

Thank you, and may you have a great day ahead of you.

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