In the morning of July 15, 2011, Mariano Umbrero, a political prisoner, died at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Hospital. Four days after, on July 19, 2011, he was given by the president an executive clemency. When asked why, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte admitted that Malacañang was not informed that Tatay Umbrero has already died earlier.
This incident, more than any other recently, defines the current Aquino administration’s handling of its human rights commitment. It responds to human rights issues such as the human rights compensation bill, the Marcos burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and the passage of the law criminalizing enforced disappearance excruciatingly slow. It has not even approved the CHR’s National Human Rights Plan and even plan to replace the Presidential Human Right Committee (PHRC) with an inter-agency body without the participation of the human rights community.
This kind of a response is expected of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. In the Aquino administration, with its avowed legacy of democracy and human rights, it is raising quite a few eyebrows not only in the local and international human rights community but even in the wider public. It seems that human rights is still subject to political expediency and can be handled opportunistically as public sentiment react to human rights issues.
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