Human rights group Amnesty International has re-launched a campaign that calls on candidates in this year’s Philippine elections to address pressing human rights issues in the country.
“Candidates should have clear and comprehensive plans of action on important human rights issues,” said Amnesty International Philippine Section Director Butch Olano.
“We ask them once more, on the war on drugs for instance, how do they plan to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted? Are they willing to cooperate with the International Criminal Court?” he said.
Olano said the candidates’ plans should be written and signed “because we will hold them to account when they win in the elections.”
The human rights group has already sent an open letter to the candidates, including guide questions based on social issues affecting peoples’ right to security of person, health, education, labor and social security, and freedom of expression.
“These issues reflect how the human rights situation in the country took a turn for the worse from one administration to another,” said Olano.
The initiative dubbed “Sagot Mo Ba Ako” was first in 2010 before former president Benigno Aquino’s term, where we focused on civil and political rights.
Amnesty International said it saw little progress as Aquino turned the government over to President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.
“But our situation further deteriorated under Duterte’s administration,” said Olano, adding that it is “very unfortunate that our human rights agenda now includes prioritizing the most basic rights.”
“After two presidents, we are left scraping the bottom of the barrel,” he said.
The five key issues included in Amnesty International Philippines’ open letter were the result of three focus group discussions conducted in 2021 with members of the organization representing 12 regions.
The discussions were segmented in three parts: participation in the National Elections; understanding needs of the communities; and building a human rights criteria for candidates.
“We recognize how elections shape the future of a nation not just in the Philippines but in a number of countries around the world most specially in South East Asia,” said Olano.
He said the trend shows that the world will not see an end to the “politics of demonization” anytime soon.
“This is the reality we are facing everywhere. Truth seeking, accountability and justice, more recently, have become a challenge to achieve. Human rights is in its darkest days,” he said.
“These are reflected in peoples’ lived experiences, so we listened to the conversations happening in the communities, and we aim to bring peoples’ voices into the election debate,” said Olano.
Concerns raised by members of Amnesty International Philippines are also documented in the organization’s State of the World’s Human Rights report which gives an overview of the human rights situation in the Philippines under different administration.
This year’s annual report will be released in late March following a comprehensive Human Rights Legislative Agenda for the next Congress outlining its recommendations.