Rights of the Accused

THE RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED, based on Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), consisting of a preamble and 30 articles which lay down the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, that was signed on 10 December 1948 by countries all over the world after the Second World War, are the following:

Article 1. All people are born free and equal in dignity and rights

Article 2. Equality and non-discrimination for all

Article 3. Right to life, liberty and security of person

Article 5. Freedom from torture and degrading treatment.

Article 6. Right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7. Equality before the law.

Article 8. Right to an effective judicial remedy.

Article 10. Right to a fair trial and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

Article 11. Right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Article 12. Freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence.

Article 14. Right to asylum.

Article 18. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Above are also called the civil and political rights of every human being, regardless of race or color, gender, sexual preference, religion, and nationality.  Articles 1 to 3 are the basic principles of human rights.

Before joining Commission on Human Rights (CHR), I don’t have any concept of human rights. All I know was the one taught to us in primary school, the good manners and right conduct. And the one I learned from my family and environment growing up, the concepts of right and wrong, of good and evil and somewhere in between, the gray area. But human rights? Never heard. Until I joined CHR.

As part of Human Rights Education and Research Office (now Human Rights Education and Promotion Office), we are always reminded by our Director to remember these basic definitions:

According to United Nations, “Human rights are generally defined as those rights which are inherent in our nature and without which we cannot live as human beings.”

And from the Commission on Human Rights, “Human rights are the supreme, inherent ,and inalienable rights to life, to dignity and to self-development. It is the essence of these rights that makes man human.”

In yesterday’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the 16th president of the Republic of the Philippines, Rodrigo R. Duterte, this is his definition of human rights:

“Human rights must work to uplift human dignity but human rights cannot be used as a shield to destroy the country.”

Since assuming his post, President Duterte, as a matter of policy, ordered the killings of alleged drug pushers and addicts who make a resistance or retaliate with the law enforcers to fast track the getting rid of criminality in our country. As a result, front page news in both traditional media and new media are about the killings of mostly ordinary, poor people. The human rights defenders and advocates cried foul over this. “An act of barbarianism,” one said. “Have we lost our conscience as a nation? No to extrajudicial killings!” said another concerned citizen.

Worse, it’s not just President Duterte who’s been charging CHR of cradling criminals but also other Filipinos, even from people who I look up to, who I cannot condemn because they’re speaking from their rage and because they have no idea about the rights of the accused same as I if I have not joined CHR.

One netizen said, “Human rights activists are all idiots and must be killed too.”

“ ‘There has been a marked increase in the number of deaths of alleged drug dealers… Blah, Blah, Blah.’ What? What country doesn’t execute drug dealers? Stupid Human Rights Commission,” said another.

And another, “I like no due process for the drug addicts, criminals, or drug traffickers and I do like very much to ignore human rights and court justices national and international. The president is the most powerful human in the country, he can order killings to arrange, to organize, to clean the country from all different kinds of crimes since that is his matter of purpose of office.”

I asked my director how do we share with other people our knowledge about the rights of the accused? (Particularly that I am not a lawyer.) She said I should cite the example of Jesus who was accused without due process, who was persecuted just because of a popular opinion without a fair trial. Who’d been tortured and not yet convicted.

I understood what she said. She provided other tips which I forgot already. I believe in Jesus and my faith is something personal to me. But not all will share this same belief, not all people share the same faith. Faith is personal. You can’t just pinpoint at Jesus as example and expect that all people will be convinced about it.

“Human rights must work to uplift human dignity but human rights cannot be used as a shield to destroy the country,” said President Duterte.

In criminal justice system, there is a myth that imprisonment is the remedy to all crimes. Because we have to bear in mind that not all people who are in jail are guilty of the crime. Many of them are languishing in jail while waiting for their trial. Not yet convicted but already in jail.

Under President Duterte, there is a myth that killings of drug pushers and addicts will end criminality. (Only God knows who on earth are the vigilantes committing those killings taking advantage of the policy of the new president under the guise of fighting criminality!)

In an article by DLS Pineda in Philippine Star, Duterte’s drug war: What we can learn from the history of cancer treatment, he shared:

“As we busy ourselves in killing more and more of these suspected drug pushers and users, we fail to see the real causes of the problem — poverty, unemployment, misinformation, the lack of opportunities for a decent education, etc, etc… First, we kill the drug pushers, then we kill our ability to empathize with our fellowmen, then… who knows what’s next?”

“Human rights must work to uplift human dignity but human rights cannot be used as a shield to destroy the country,” said President Duterte in his SONA. And the audience applauded.

You don’t understand Pres. Duterte. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Quoting my friend Marizen Santos, “It’s the utter disregard for human rights that actually destroys a country.”

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