Tag Archives: Darwin Mendiola

[Blog] What should be in PNoy’s Bucket List? by Darwin Mendiola

[Reflection] What should be in PNoy’s Bucket List?.
by Darwin Mendiola, CARPE DIEM

Happy 2015 to everyone!

I believe this New Year gives all of us a resurgence of hope and energy towards the possibility for change.

As a tradition, some people used to make a New Year’s resolution to make a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something significant for the new year.

Darwin 2

I am not really into making New Year’s Resolution. The closest I get is just to come up with a to-do list everyday. Not that I don’t live my days before by fulfilling my personal goals and plans, and that I was just caught up in a flurry of day-to-day activities. However, as my work and personal interest involve advocating for human rights, I feel the need to commit myself more to blog about human rights this year.

That’s why I have prepared a bucket list not for myself but to the Philippine government to remind them how important human rights issues are that need to be immediately addressed.

Here are the 10 wishes in my Bucket List on Human Rights for President Benigno Aquino III (PNoy) to act this year 2015:

Read full article @dars0357.wordpress.com

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[Blog] Pagpupugay at Pasasalamat Sa mga Bayani at Martir ng Batas Militar: A Review By Darwin Mendiola

Pagpupugay at Pasasalamat Sa mga Bayani at Martir ng Batas Militar: A Review
By Darwin Mendiola

Heroes are made not born.

They are those who let no obstacle prevent them from pursuing the values they have chosen. Some simply happened to find themselves at a crossroads, confronted with the turbulent events of their time but chose to take a path less traveled and even offering their own lives.

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One needs not to be extraordinary to do heroic deed. Any Juan dela Cruz, Maria or Jose – workers, farmers, fisherfolks, students, professionals, church people, informal settlers or street hawkers can make a big difference.
But there are many of them who remain anonymous until now. They are the NAMELESS —whose deeds are not known to many. Remembering them may not be enough. But reliving their legacies in us is one way to honor them.

And this is what the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines together with the NAMELESS HEROES AND MARTYRS, INC. and the DAKILA Collectives admirably did when they paid tribute to the HEROES and MARTYRS of MARTIAL LAW on September 30, 2014 at the Aldaba Recital Hall, University of the Philippines-Diliman.

The event brought together Martial Law heroes and the new generation of human rights defenders to commemorate the 42nd Anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law through a matinee of songs, dances and theatrical play under the brilliant direction of UP Prof. Apolonio Chua.

The songs of protest like Batingaw, Sangandaan, Patak ng Ulan at Huling Awit were once again resonated on the stage by Color It Red vocalist Cooky Chua and the progressive labour theater group, Teatro Pabrika to awaken in the audience the Filipino spirit of patriotism.

May Tibak At May Tibak and Buhay Na Inalay Sa Bayan from LEAN: The Musical which run deep into our Filipino consciousness and stir intense emotions were given new life through the creative dance performances of the Collective Arts of Students and Thespians (CAST) from University of Makati by efficaciously translating the sufferings and struggle of the Filipino people under Martial law into series of movement and dramatic expression.

But what makes the event different from the previous commemorations is that it set the stage for the Reader’s theatre where excerpts from selected literatures were read by character roles with no needs for costumes and props for the audience to relive the social upheavals of that time that gave rise to popular discontent and resistance.

Tutubi, Tutubi ‘Wag Kang Magpahuli sa Mamang Salbahe (Dragonfly, Dragonfly, Don’t Allow Yourself to Get Caught by a Bad Guy) by Palanca awardee Jun Cruz Reyes, gives a satirical account of the irrationality of the power structure and how a high school student’s curiosity has turned into a conviction of joining the underground movement.

The “Written to Myself During a Fit of Depression” by former political prisoner, Doris Baffrey, a letter she wrote for herself relates her traumatic experiences while languishing in jail for almost five years which left a thick scar or welt on her very existence in the same way that many survivors of martial-law were plagued by intense, recurring nightmares. Ms. Baffrey was implicated in the PICC bombing during the American Society of Travel Agents Convention in 1980.

A more vivid account of torture was best described in the poem, TORTYUR- Sa mga Kuko ng Karimlan written by another Palanca awardee and political activist, Levy Balgos dela Cruz which shows how torture is being used as a form of punishment until it breaks the person’s will to live.

The agony of a wife who has to pretend as a cousin of her husband in order to claim his remains after he was summarily executed by the military is given a human face and heart in the play, Buwan at Baril by Chris Millado.
The family memoir, ‘Subversive Lives’ by the Quimpos reminds us of the personal costs at best illuminates an on-going struggle mediated by familial experiences and the sacrifices of those who joined the movement.

We owe it to those who stood and fought against the dictator in order for freedom and democracy to live. Their sacrifices and love for country are the reasons why the “selfie” generation today have the freedom to click and post whatever they want in social media. But lest we forget that the responsibility to make the country freer, humane and just now rests on our shoulders.

Salute to the Unsung Heroes of Martial Law!
Kudos to the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines!
Never Again to Martial Law!

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[Blog] When money is not enough. By Darwin Mendiola

When money is not enough
By Darwin Mendiola

A country in a democratic transition must come to terms with its past in order to move forward.

Addressing past atrocities and injustices is considered a crucial part of social healing and national reconciliation. Acknowledging the misdeeds especially human rights violations is one significant step towards guaranteeing the right of the victims for effective remedies.

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However, remedial measures take various forms of reparation. One way is through compensation. This serves both as an acknowledgment of the human rights violations and the sanctioning of the state for allowing or for directly committing such violations.

After more than four decades, the Philippine government through the passage of Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 finally recognizes “the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims” of human rights violations during martial law and “restore the victims’ honor and dignity.”

Compensation provides not only material but also symbolic political and social benefits. First, it helps bring immediate economic relief to victims and their families and allow them to meet the basic survival needs. Secondly, the monetary compensation may serve as a deterrent for future abuses by imposing financial sanctions for committing such violations.

Although harms or injuries resulting from human rights violations are often irreparable but compensation can help restore the victims’ dignity by knowing that their rights are recognized and the violations committed against them are being atoned.

But lest we forget that reparations are not primarily about money, but to publicly acknowledge the wrongdoings and to guarantee its non-repetition. It is a necessary component of the healing process as it signifies a concrete step on the part of the state to make amends and take full responsibility for the historical tragedies like Martial Law.

Compensation must therefore serve to continuously promote and protect human rights. For money can’t buy justice but it can help the victim to endlessly pursue it.

Visit Darwin’s blogsite @dars0357.wordpress.com

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[Featured blog last week] Carpe Diem: a call for individual and collective action

It was barely three months from June 21, 2011 when Darwin Mendiola started this blog “Carpe Diem.” Since then it has earned 1,200 plus hits which was a good sign for a new blogger who mainly focuses on topics of human rights.

Darwin Mendiola works with the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD).  A regional level federation of human rights organizations that are working with the issues of enforced disappearances in Asia.

As Darwin described his blog…

“Carpe diem is a phrase from a Latin poem by Horace which means “seize the day”. Carpe is literally translated as “to pick, pluck, pluck off, cull, crop, gather”. Diem on the other hand simply connotes “day”. Roman poet Ovid used this phrase to mean “to enjoy, seize, use, and live”. For the author, this is about changing our attitude – by simply being critical, being involved and to express one’s thought. This is what this blog is trying to do – just to contribute in the understanding of the social realities by examining issues that affect our lives.

Carpe diem is a call for individual and collective action.”

Carpe Diem mainly contains Darwin’s reflections and opinions on human rights issues and other helpful information with HR interest.  His recent series of posts tackle on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) concerns. You can read more of Carpe Diem through the URL address – http://dars0357.wordpress.com/.

Consistent with one of the objectives of HRonlinePH to promote blogs and bloggers containing human rights related posts we had Carpe Diem last week and now we will have My Life is My Message by Anthony Gaupo as our featured blog of the week.

[Blogger] Expanding the Mandate of CHR: Can a toothless tiger bite with false teeth?

Expanding the Mandate of the Commission on Human Rights:
Can a toothless tiger bite with false teeth?
by Darwin Mendiola – Carpe Diem

The human rights situation in every country is gauged not only on how its governments have performed its primary duties to promote, protect and fulfill the basic human rights of its every citizen by putting in place in its policies and programs, measures and mechanisms that guarantee redress and accountability, but also on the performance of a well functioning national human rights institutions (NHRIs) which are in charge with the compliance monitoring of the human rights performance of the states.

The role of NHRIs in fostering a culture of human rights promotion and protection has been widely recognized in recent years. It goes without saying that these days every country has to have a national human rights commission if it is really committed to human rights.

However, many governments have established their own human rights commissions just for the purpose of improving their international reputation and shielding themselves from international criticisms and scrutiny for committing gross violations of human rights. In fact, the NHRIs that have shown high level of effectiveness and independence are mostly those where its governments have the strong commitment to human rights compared to those NHRIs in countries where human rights are most seriously violated.

Philippines is said to be exceptional for having a very dynamic NHRI. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP), an independent constitutional body enshrined under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, was created in 1987 with the issuance of its legislative charter, Executive Order No. 163. Its present proactive stance is said to have inspired the Filipino people to look at it as the protector and promoter of human rights in the country.

However, many are still of the opinion that even if the CHRP carries out its function well, if its powers are limited, it will still be incapable of curbing human rights transgressions. This is not mainly on the issue of having a limited power but more specifically on its defined focal functions which hardly met the criteria set forth by the Paris Principles. Although, much of the discussions on NHRI’s performance audit using this international criteria have been largely normative and legal. What I am more concerned with is its practical performance or on how it really carries its mandates and functions.

The Paris Principles require that NHRI must have a broad mandate as possible which mean the unrestricted power to promote and protect human rights. The Commission has various powers and functions as enumerated in the 1987 Constitution, among which is the power to investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights. Its principal function therefore is primarily investigatory. But this investigative power of the CHRP has been the main subject of criticisms by various sectors due to generally two reasons. First, the mere investigatory power does not give the much needed teeth that can forestall human rights violation nor provide redress for misdeed. Secondly, it is limited to political and civil rights and excludes the vast area of economic, social and cultural rights.

The reason for this according the Constitutional expert Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ was that the desire of the 1986 Constitutional Commission is not to overburden the Commission during its initial years and this limitation does not exclude the possibility of expanding the Commission’s scope. This is said to pose no serious problem to the Commission as it has able to transcend over the years this constitutional limitation by issuing resolutions that clearly differentiated the investigation for purposes of prosecution for civil and political violations and investigative monitoring on economic, social and cultural issues. It has even used such issues to remind the government on its obligations emanating pertinent international human rights treaties in which Philippines is a State party.

The local lawyers group, Libertas in its 2010 ANNI Report entitled, Philippines: A Time of Great Irony concluded that “the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines which once taunted as a ‘toothless tiger’, began to roar.” It was during the iniquitous Arroyo administration where the spate of unlawful killings and enforced disappearances has reached an alarming proportion that the Commission made use of its investigative power to bring human rights violations to the fore. It held public inquiries, fact finding missions and special operations to ferret out the truth behind alleged state abuses.

Hence, the need to grant the Commission the power to prosecute and adjudicate or even to the extent of converting it to a quasi-judicial body is now seriously being considered. For two decades, several bills have been filed in Congress seeking to enhance the Commission’s independence through an amendment to its legislative charter but until now it is yet to be enacted by the Philippine Congress. One suggested reform is to provide the Commission with a “standby prosecutorial powers” in cases of failure by the government prosecution body to act on human rights violations.

However despite this noble intention, others believed that the grant of such power will mean the change the nature of the CHRP as provided for in the Constitution since it may undermine its status as an independent constitutional body and as result it may clash with other prosecutorial agencies such as the Department of Justice and Ombudsman. I believe that the difference in the prosecutorial functions of the CHRP to that of other prosecutorial agencies can be best resolved by clearly defining the scope and limitations of such functions. What bothers me is the tendency of the CHRP to mistakenly identify a mere criminal offense to that of human rights violation especially if it involves non-State actor. If this is the case, perhaps CHRP should push for the enactment of a “Code on Human Rights Violation” which will delineate the distinction between the commission of a criminal act punishable by law from the violation of human rights. This is very important for the CHRP to effectively perform its prosecutorial functions.

The Paris Principles provide that NHRI should investigate and report upon potential human rights violations at the request of government or any interested party or on its own initiative. But even if the present and previous CHR’s leadership has shown activism and independence, the institution remains largely a part of the government’s bureaucracy that work on an eight to five o’clock basis and remains inept to take prompt action on urgent issues especially those situated in different regions. How if the violation is committed during weekends? It is short of saying that CHRP should set up a call center which will advice the callers that CHRP personnel will get back to them as soon as they have reported in the office. The Commission’s complaint-handling and investigation processes based on the actual experiences of human rights organizations reveal a lack of coherent policies and in most cases have undermined its effectiveness.

The CHRP as an investigative and soon as a prosecutorial body should provide a coherent procedural policies and create quick reaction teams if it accepts the need to have strong “teeth” because if not, it may find itself biting with false teeth while roaring with regrets.

The CHRP’s performance if based on the Paris Principles for me is yet to get off the mark in terms of its mandate and functions. Although, I know that there are several factors that need to be discussed as vital point of references to really come up with an objective assessment of CHRP’s performance but let me reserve those issues on my next blog article.

[Blogger] The Blind Side – Carpe Diem

by Darwin Mendiola

The news that Mariano Umbrero, a political prisoner who was suffering from stage four – lung cancer died at the National Bilibid Prison Hospital on July 15, 2011, was not only saddening but also disturbing.

It was lamentable that despite incessant appeals of the families, friends and human right advocates both here and abroad to the Pnoy administration for his immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian ground since he was diagnosed with a respiratory disease in February of this year, it was uncaringly ignored by the government as he was left to perish in jail without receiving freedom and compassion.

Umbrero was just one of more than 300 political prisoners in country. He was a suspected member of the Communist Party of the PhilippinesNew People’s Army (CPP-NPA) when he was arrested and detained. He was charged and convicted for a common crime of murder and kidnapping with serious illegal detention.

Political prisoner is defined under Philippine law as person who has been arrested or detained by reason of the commission of an act penalized by existing law as political crime, or by reason of any other act which is complexes with, or connected to such crime, or impelled by a political reason or motive. Or simply, a prisoner who is held for political reason.

Considered as “prisoners of conscience” under international humanitarian law, they are locked up for speaking out against their government, for exercising their rights, practicing their religion, culture, race or gender.

What is disturbing is that keeping political prisoners behind bars through criminalization of political offense as a form of repression continue to happen up to this day. What makes it more inhuman is to allow them to suffer and die in prison without giving them due recognition.

President Aquino as a son of political prisoner during Martial law should know better the plight of political prisoners and why they should be set free and as the President, he now holds the sole authority to correct the miscarriage of justice against them by granting them with an executive clemency.

If Pnoy saw the merit and substance of granting of amnesty to 300 rebel soldiers, who were involved and charged for the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny; the February 2006 Marines standoff; and the November 2007 Manila Peninsula takeover for the purpose of political reconciliation and unity, why could he not give the same consideration and equal treatment to all political prisoners in the country? If he could order to drop charges against the so-called “Morong 43“, as a confidence building measure for the resumption of the peace talks with communist rebels, why could he not demonstrate the same goodwill and compassion to free all political prisoners to show its complete sincerity to achieve long and lasting peace in this country?

By not acting decisively and urgently on the appeal for Umbrero’s immediate release before he died last Friday, Pnoy did not only miss the opportune moment to show his government’s compassion for those who have fallen victims to injustice but he also failed to prove that he would be an exact opposite of his predecessor not perhaps for intently committing gross human rights violations but rather for not doing enough to improve the human rights situation.

Ensuring respect human dignity, ending impunity, and freeing those imprisoned for political reason are the concerete steps that the Pnoy government needs to undertake to reassure the Filipino people that real change is coming after decades of authoritarian rule. Failing to do so only means that human rights remain at the blind side of the government’s priorities.

[Carpe diem is a phrase from a Latin poem by Horace which means “seize the day”. Carpe is literally translated as “to pick, pluck, pluck off, cull, crop, gather”. Diem on the other hand simply connotes “day”. Roman poet Ovid used this phrase to mean “to enjoy, seize, use, and live”. For the author, this is about changing our attitude – by simply being critical, being involved and to express one’s thought. This is what this blog is trying to do – just to contribute in the understanding of the social realities by examining issues that affect our lives.

Carpe diem is a call for individual and collective action.]

Visit Carpe Diem at http://dars0357.wordpress.com/

[Blogger] Brazen Display of Power – Carpe Diem

Seize the Moment. Be Critical. Be Involved. Be Heard Home About Brazen Display of Power July 7, 2011 by dars0357 Davao Mayor Sara Duterte punching a sheriff. Photo from newsinfo.inquirer.net

by Darwin Mendiola
Carpe Diem

The TV footage last Friday which caught Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte punching a local court sheriff who was then serving a demolition order struck me as something very odd but not unusual.

It was very odd for me to see a local government official who came from a political clan not known to have a soft spot for the well being and interest of their constituents to go out of her way even preventing the execution of a court order to make her appear as if she cares for them.

But it was not unusual to see a local government official to brazenly display her power and in this case even her physical power over a hapless government employee who was just following an order.

While others may find her action laudable for showing a firm resolve to stop the demolition team headed by the poor sheriff from tearing down the shanties of 217 families inside a contested property in Barangay Soliman in Davao’s Agdao district, but the unnecessary use of violence on the part of the Mayor Duterte only shows what she is capable of doing with the power she has. Perhaps taking some lessons from her dad, Rodrigo, a long-time Davao City mayor who was allegedly behind the vigilante Davao Death Squad, and now serves as the city’s vice mayor.

As far as I remember, it is not the first time a politician is involved in a violent skirmish. A year ago a mayor from Lanao Del Sur was accused of mauling a businsessman and his son at the Valley Golf Club in Antipolo City.  This kind of actuation, I believe, exemplifies the character of our local politicians who act like monarchs with unbridled arrogance and no respect for others by demonstrating their complete authority over their domains.

Mayor Duterte’s claim that she felt insulted by the sheriff’s insistence on serving the notice of eviction when she was asking for a two-hour reprieve provided us a clear motive that she was acting to salvage her wounded pride than to prevent a possible violent confrontation between the demolition team and the informal settlers.

In the first place, if the good mayor is really concerned with the safety of informal settlers living in danger zone, her government should have long provided the people with a decent housing program and not to wait for this mess to happen.

I fully support the public call for a nationwide moratorium on demolition not to make local government officials look good and caring but because it is a recognition of our right to housing and the state’s obligation to fulfill this right by developing and implementing policies which will lead to the realization of a mass housing program for the poor with the guarantee of job provision and delivery of basic social services.

This should be the way how the government officials must use their power because the power they have does not emanate from them but from the people.

[Blogger] Pnoy’s first year not a straight path for people’s rights and welfare – dars0357.wordpress.com

by Darwin Mendiola
Carpe Diem

The first year of President Aquino in office for many is quite a disappointment as it falls short of the expectation to improve people’s welfare and the human rights situation in the country. The people’s welfare and human rights are obviously not part of the new government’s top priorities in the past 12 months.

How PNoy fared during his first year mirrors that of the real state of the nation. While I recognize that new administration has just inherited from its predecessor the heavy burden of a huge budget deficit, but after a year in office, change appears far from reality.

As the economy is slowly declining, joblessness remains high, and poverty continues to deepen, President Aquino seems to avoid facing the critical issue of land reform and agricultural modernization. These are fundamental reforms which the nation’s majority, the small farmers, have consistently demanded from every sitting administration. Instead, he is prioritizing mining—just like his predecessor did which is not only said to be destructive
to the environment but also infringes the basic human rights of the indigenous communities inhabiting the areas near the mining.

While the Filipino people’s living condition did not only change, those who are asserting their rights are also continuously being violated.

Anti- mining groups claimed that anyone who opposes mining companies is quite likely to end up missing or dead. It is seen as a pattern that whenever there is mining operation, there would be extensive military deployment and escalation of human rights violations in the mining affected areas.

It is like silencing a dog by poking it with sharp end of the stick.

Human rights violations continue to happen with impunity under the PNoy administration. While efforts to improve and professionalize the investigation and prosecutorial system are said to be underway, police investigations remain fraught with delays and impediments.

Until now, no single perpetrator is yet to be held accountable for human rights violations, and the government has done little to discipline the erring members of its security forces.

The Oplan Bayanihan which was adopted a paradigm shift by the military from the combat-focused approach it used in the past to a human security or “people-centered” approach aims at least in paper to give greater attention to the needs of the citizens and the effects of military operations in the communities instead of pursuing armed rebels. But the continuing military presence and abuses on the ground in many provinces make it quite difficult to ascertain when Oplan Bantay Laya ends and Oplan Bayanihan begins. One can only think that this new security plan is no different from the other, except perhaps for a different name.

I believe that the promised change of daang matuwid (straight path) of the Aquino administration can’t be achieved without the guarantee of respect to human rights and dignity and ending impunity. It is about time for President Aquino to walk the talk.

The straight path where he envisions of leading the nation should be a road that guarantees human rights for all. But if it is path where citizens are only extra-legally killed or forcibly disappeared, muzzled by repressive laws, hobbled by poverty and ignorance, it will surely lead the nation to nowhere but doom.