Are “human rights” advocates pangit (“ugly”) as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asserts? It’s an interesting question considering that the “human rights” advocacy was once unanimously lauded as a beautiful initiative in Philippine society. This was back in the days when “fighting for human rights” was fashionable in the Philippiens — long long ago in 1986 when it was clear to Filipinos who the bad guy was.
The Philippines of 2016 — three decades after that “revolution” — is different. Filipinos are suffering from a weariness and abject cynicism after spending the last 30 years watching as successive governments — and the Catholic-educated elites who backed them — paid mere lip service to the notion of “human rights”. Indeed, ask the ordinary Filipino whether theirs is a society that enjoys more “human rights” today than it did back in 1986 and you’d likely get no more than a shrug or a bit of head-scratching in response.
It becomes difficult to subscribe to the fashion statements of organisations like the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) or the chants of so-called “activists” at the picket lines when you see the likes of Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile at the top of the Philippines’ food chain. These two are the alleged architects of former President Ferdinand Marcos’s “Martial Law regime”. Yet today, instead of being tainted with infamy, Ramos and Enrile are celebrated statesmen.
You gotta hand it to Filipino politicians. They have a talent for scraping off erstwhile indelible stains off their moral fabric. Ramos and Enrile should both win gold medals in the Teflon Olympics! Then again, is it a talent on the politician’s part? Or is it a phenomenon that lends itself to Filipinos’ famously-selective historical amnesia? The answer is quite obvious.
And so, you just gotta laugh. “Human rights” in the Philippines has become no more than a quaint punchline as Duterte demonstrates following a meeting with newly-crowned Miss International Kylie Verzosa during his official visit to Japan…
Of course, I am happy. I am always happy if our beautiful women win all the titles. Kasi Pilipino tayo, it gives us konting hambog. […] Parang mayabang tayo. Kita mo, magaganda mga Pilipina. Pero kayong lahat diyan sa Human Rights Commission, mga pangit.
C’mon. You gotta admit that was funny — specially considering the faces of the CHR that come to mind, right?
Duterte, as President of the Philippines, simply follows a storied tradition of top statesmen and heads of state issuing even more withering snipes. Here is an example of the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at one of his finest:
Lady Astor to Churchill: “Winston, if you were my husband I would flavour your coffee with poison”
Churchill: “Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink it”
* * *
Filipinos have decided that they have no use for “human rights” — at least not the brand of “human rights” hatched by Candlestick Park hippies in the 1960s and, now, peddled by obsolete agencies like the CHR to Third World suckers half a planet away in the age of social media (ironic, right?).
I might propose that a new activism be built around this simple slogan:
TAKE BACK HUMAN RIGHTS.
Specifically, take it back from the Commission on Human Rights and fashion it into something relevant to Filipinos. Perhaps when that happens, we will finally see Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile where they ought to be spending their remaining years — in prison.