For Elmer Labog, chairperson of the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno and one of the two Makabayan senatorial candidates, human rights should be a top issue in the 2022 presidential race.
Labog knows human rights. He was one of the many young Filipinos of the late 1960s and 1970s who stood up to a dictator. A lifelong advocate of workers’ and people’s concerns, he has seen the importance of human rights to everyday life.
Whatever our ideology, creed, class, gender, age or political persuasion, it is difficult to ignore Labog’s Human Rights Test.
Candidates from the administration, opposition, and everyone else beyond them or in between, should be brave and honest in answering the test. Ditto for vice presidential and senatorial candidates.
The 10 questions comprising Labog’s Human Rights Test are:
1. Will you honor the heroes in the fight against dictatorship and tyranny?
2. Will you stop extrajudicial killings and give justice to victims?
3. Will you disband and prosecute death squads?
4. Will you stop red-tagging?
5. Will you protect and confer with unions and people’s organizations?
6. Will you abolish the NTF-ELCAC?
7. Will you demilitarize the civilian bureaucracy?
8. Will you repeal the anti-terror law?
9. Will you free all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and drop trumped-up charges against critics like Sen. Leila de Lima, activists and peace negotiators?
10. Will you rejoin the ICC and turn over Rodrigo Duterte to the ICC when a warrant is issued against him? The answers to these questions are important to millions of Filipinos.
Among them are the families of the tens of thousands of drug suspects, suspected communists, and red-tagged activists who have been neutralized, extra-judicially killed or summarily executed.
Who is the candidate who will give their fallen relatives the justice they deserve and are entitled to under the law? Who are the candidates who would commit to stop the killings? Shouldn’t aspirants for national leadership positions have a stand and a proposal to address these heinous crimes? Ordinary Filipinos are also interested to know the answers. Human rights are important in our daily lives: to improving the lot of millions, to demanding the services we are entitled to, and to ending various forms of exploitation and oppression.
Those who argue that human rights are unimportant or are dispensable are those who have a lot to hide from citizens. The worst times for the country when kleptocracy ruled freely and unmolested came when human rights were violated, cut up and limited.
Labog’s Human Rights Test could thus be a good yardstick that Filipinos could use to measure the presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates. It will help separate genuine democratic leaders from the pretenders, the know-nothings and the tyrannical ones.
To Labog’s Human Rights Test, we could add two more questions: 11. Would you guarantee a new franchise for ABS-CBN and ensure that the media network reopens as soon as possible? 12. Would you drop the charges against Rappler and other independent community media outlets and their journalists? Journalists, artists and their audience here and abroad look forward to the candidates’ answers to these questions, as they will be the preview of what’s in store for freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of information in the next six years.
To say that the past five years have been challenging to human rights is an understatement. President Duterte has for many times asserted directly and indirectly that human rights are a hindrance.
The elections should be a way for us to press the candidates to speak and lay down their commitments whether to continue, or reverse Duterte’s belief in human rights and democracy.
For Labog and his generation that fought hard to end a dictatorship, the fight continues so that workers and all Filipinos would be able to enjoy our human, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Such is a kind of progress we all deserve and want.