Human Rights celebrated despite attacks on freedom and rights
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Artists, advocates, students, educators, families, and the every day Juan and Maria converged to celebrate Human Rights at the Alab ng Puso Concert last December 9, Saturday, from 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM at the Times Square Food Park, Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City. Organized as part of the Active Vista Human Rights Festival, the concert is co-presented by the artist group DAKILA, I-DEFEND Philippines and the Commission on Human Rights.
According to DAKILA Executive Director Rash Caritativo, “Alab ng Puso calls on every Filipino to #StandUp4HumanRights especially at this time when democratic spaces and institutions protecting human rights are under attack and when the current political storms are drowning our rights and freedoms. More than ever, now is the time to celebrate human rights, own it, and defend it.”
The celebration of International Human Rights Day on December 10 kicks off a year long campaign by the United Nations to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that states the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being. The celebration of Human Rights Day comes in a very delicate time in the Philippines where in the country is in the international watch list following a European Union report which noted that human rights violations in the Philippines worsened as a result of the administration’s war on drugs.
“Now more than ever, we need to come together to reclaim the human rights narrative and assert the rule of law. We need to seize opportunities to promote and protect human rights. In face of blatant disregard for human rights, we need to push back and stand up for our rights and the rights of our fellow Filipinos,” said CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia.
According to Ellecer “Budit” Carlos of I-DEFEND Philippines, a broad coalition of civil society organizations actively campaigning for the protection of Human Rights, “The free expression of ideas and beliefs with out being threatened by Government is crucial in a working democracy. Government is duty bound to respect the rights of all persons to participate in public affairs. In contrast with its obligations, the administration has promoted intolerance to all critical voices and used the entire state machinery in its effort to silence all opposition and dissent. It has brought to great peril not just the urban poor but also human rights defenders which it has tagged as the next sector worthy of elimination.”
The festivities for the Human Rights celebration started early on as around 10 cyclists launched a 12-hour, 300-kilometer bike ride last November 8 from Nueva Ecija to Quezon City. From Cabanatuan, the cyclists passed through Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan and finished at the Alab ng Puso concert in Araneta center. The route traced the area in Nueva Ecija where staunch Human Rights advocate, Senator Jose “Pepe” Diokno and Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino were detained in solitary confinement during Martial Law for charges of subversion. They passed by the Capas National Shrine in Tarlac to give reverence to those who sacrificed for our country’s freedom and the newly installed statue of Diokno at the Commission on Human Rights grounds.
According to Jack Yabut, lead of the group, “Our ride was inspired by the life and work of Senator Jose ”Pepe” Diokno who is regarded as the Father of the Human Rights Movement in the Philippines. Each pedal stroke and kilometer covered by these volunteers from clubs and groups like The Firefly Brigade, The Project 3 Bikers among others, is to help this country, our country, in Diokno’s words, ‘better than ours…a nation for our children’.”
The Alab ng Puso concert featured performances by some of the country’s top artists – Hilera, Sandwich, Bullet Dumas, Noel Cabangon, Bayang Barrios and Naliyagan Band, Cooky Chua, Gary Granada, Ourselves the Elves, BLKD, Aia de Leon, IV of Spades, Brass Pas Pas Pas Pas, Tanya Markova, Oh! Flamingo, Flying Ipis, Alfonso Manalastas, Juan Miguel Severo, Louise Meets, Abby Orbeta, and Jun “Bayaw” Sabayton.
Active Vista Executive Director said, “The social ills of society are tearing away our dignity as humans. In our country these days, the mere mention of the word, ‘human rights’ invite fear, mockery, sarcasm, animosity or alienation. Our people don’t understand that Human Rights are relevant to all of us, everyday. Our shared humanity is rooted in these universal values of Human Rights. This is why the arts are important to remind us of our humanity. Narratives of human struggles conveyed whether through music, poetry, images or films compels us to reflect on our own truths. This is what the Alab ng Puso is all about – letting the power of the creative form enable us to keep in touch with our humanity.”
The Alab ng Puso was part of the Active Vista Human Rights Festival which opened last November 22 and featured human rights film screenings; the art exhibit Moving Pictures: Artists for Human Dignity; the EJK themed theater play ‘Tao Po’ by Juana Change; talks and workshops on human rights; a Youth Empowerment Summit; a human rights short film competition and the bike ride, Padyak para sa Karapatan. The festival culminated on International Human Rights Day with the awarding of the winners of the Human Rights short film competition and the screening of the celebrated film RESPETO at the newly opened Cinema Centenario in Maginhawa, UP Village, Quezon City.
All roads to the human rights celebration culminated in the gathering of human rights advocates in a rally led by I-DEFEND in Mendiola on December 10 from 8:00 am – 12:00 noon. The gathering mobilized representatives from all sectors who are critical of the government’s stance on human rights.
The artist group DAKILA also launched the “Everyday Human Rights” poster to help in making the public understand the concept of Human Rights. According to DAKILA’s Creative Director Andrei Venal, “The idea is to break down top level concepts in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into every day acts of upholding human rights that the people can easily relate to so they can identify what human rights are and how it is relevant in their every day lives.” DAKILA shall be releasing the “Everyday Human Rights” series of posters in the coming days. They encouraged the public to download the poster and put it in their classrooms or offices to remind them to know their rights, uphold, protect and defend it, everywhere at all times.