A Visayas-wide network of civil society organizations working for the promotion and protection of human rights was launched Saturday in Bacolod City.
Representatives of basic sectors such as labor, urban poor, farmers, fisherfolks, women, youth, PWDs, transport workers, church, and individual members from the academe, gathered at Planta Centro Bacolod Saturday morning to launch Tindog Katungod or Stand up for Human Rights, a combined vernacular understood among people in the Visayas.
The launching is the final outcome of a five-month process of consultations and focus group discussions among basic sectors and civil society organizations who are working for the promotion and defense of human rights in the Visayas region.
The partnership building between CSOs and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) was made possible by the Governance in Justice or Go Just program.
Building consensus for partnership
The Visayas process was facilitated by Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa, with Partido Manggagawa (PM) and Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) as lead organizations.
Lawyer Stephanie Claros of PM, a fresh bar passer who landed No. 15 opened the session by appraising the participants of the process that led to the formation of Tindog Katungod.
“I was not yet a lawyer when the partnership process started early this year, but she was convinced that the present condition demands closer cooperation between groups if we are to effectively advance and protect the human rights of our people,” she said.
The formation of Tindog Katungod is an outcome of a series of consultative meetings that were held in Cebu and Bacolod City wherein representatives from the islands of Leyte, Bohol, Panay, Guimaras and Negros have actively participated.
The meetings resulted to a decision of forming a loose, but highly coordinative network of organizations who are willing to work together for the promotion and protection of human rights.
Sixto “Dodo” Macasaet, Outcome 3 Coordinator of the Go Just Project and lawyer Romeo Baldevarona, Provincial Director of CHR Negros, represented the CHR at the launching and they assured the participants of CHR’s active and continuing collaboration with the CSOs in their human rights work and advocacies during their respective messages.
The perils of ChaCha
Another highlight of the Tindog Katungod launching was a public forum on charter change where former representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III as resource person.
Tanada III discussed the current move in revising the 1987 Constitution and its implications to human rights.
“If the mode of changing the Constitution will be done through a Constituent Assembly (ConAss), then I believe that it is self-serving and only carry the interests of incumbent lawmakers that would impair the political process,” stressed Tanada III.
“One of the proposals authored in the House provides for the abolition of Congress and the granting of dual powers (executive and legislative) to the President,” emphasized Tanada III.
Tanada also underscored “that Charter Change is not really necessary at this point in time. Even the proposed shift towards federalism may only lead to a very costly experiment at this time when our people are shaking from high prices of goods and services due to the imposition of new taxes under TRAIN.”
Asserting a life of dignity
The launching of Tindog Katungod ended with the ratification of the group’s Unity Statement. A portion of the unity statement reads:
“We assert that it is not the people’s human rights advocacy that has emboldened lawless elements to break peace, law and order. On the contrary, we believe that it is the current regime that has created a political condition that undermines the value of human life by glorifying killings and violence as a norm. President Durterte’s vicious and relentless attack on the human rights concept itself, including the very institutions created by the Constitution to ensure its promotion and progressive realization such as the Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman, and now the Supreme Court, has created the culture of impunity that emboldens both the law enforcers and lawless elements to undermine human rights and the inviolability of life.”
Furthermore, Tindog Katungod also wants to highlight demands of the basic sectors for the realization of their economic and socio-cultural rights such as on the issues of regular and gainful employment both in the private and public sector; social security, just transition, employment opportunities especially for the informal sector, the youth and PWDs; agrarian justice, health sector reform, safe and livable communities, and an end to violence and discrimination against women and LGBT community, among others.
“Apparently, its war against illegal drugs may have reflected lack of respect for human rights. But substantially, this administration also has a paltry track record on many other aspects of human rights, including the economic and socio-cultural rights of our people,” added the statement.
Tindog Katungod said they bonded together by their common desire to live a life of dignity in a peaceful community where human rights reign supreme as a framework in pursuing social development.