San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said today, December 9, that the country will recover better amid the COVID-19 pandemic if the Filipino people stand up for human rights.
“We believe that the way to recover better is through defending our people’s rights for a better life amid this pandemic,” he said in his message to mark International Human Rights Day tomorrow.
“The Diocese of San Carlos invites everyone to celebrate International Human Rights Day by being vigilant and by protecting the rights of every human being who is created in the image and likeness of God “, Alminaza added.
The Human Rights Watch reported that during community quarantine, between April to July, there was a 50 percent increase in drug-related killings compared to last year’s four-month period, the bishop said.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has officially recognized 5,810 persons killed as of the end of July 2020, he added.
Under the Duterte administration alone, there have been 92 cases of extrajudicial killings in Negros, he said.
“Until today, our cries to end the killings in the Negros island remain unheeded,” he said, adding that justice is still being sought for lawyer Ben Ramos, Toto Patigas, Zara Alvarez, and many more.
“The unresolved extrajudicial killings of thousands of Filipinos should challenge our consciences”, he said.
In the Negros Island, there are currently 95 political prisoners, Alminaza also said.
“Our country needs to recover better, from the many issues affecting our nation, including the PhilHealth scandal, the direction and implementation of COVID-19 Bayanihan Act to Heal as One Fund, the inefficiency of the Department of Education online learning, the more than P16 billion proposed National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) anti-insurgency fund, the excess foreign loans and grants for COVID-19 response, and others, “ he said.
The country needs a recovery that protects every Filipino, Alminaza stressed
“Red-tagging of activists, peoples’ organizations and church-people who defend human rights must stop. Instead, the root causes of the armed conflict should be addressed and peace negotiations should be seriously pursued,” he said.
The Church People – Workers Solidarity, of which Alminaza is co-convenor, today also called for the defense of human rights, an end to red-tagging and the scrapping of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
“The Philippines, under the present administration has become a dangerous country especially for human rights defenders,” it said.*