Genuine independence upholds the democratic rights of the people

The arrest and detention of student activist Emmanuel Mijares of the Ateneo de Naga University for chanting “walang pagbabago, sa ilalim ni Aquino” (nothing has changed under the Aquino administration) underscores the kind of freedom and democracy in the country. After the said incident, members of the Presidential Security Guards punched Mijares and forced into his mouth the streamer he was holding. 

Ironically, this happened when BS Aquino was delivering his speech to commemorate the declaration of the country’s independence, saying ‘My family’s legacy taught me the importance of fighting for equality to break the cycle of vicious injustice’. 

Mijares was detained at the PNP Barlin station in Naga City. He was released after he was charged with assault, public disturbance, and alarm and scandal. 

Looking into the Mijares incident and the current human rights situation in the country, Karapatan listed down a few benchmarks for freedom and democracy: 

1. The people’s democratic rights are upheld and promoted. But with a counterinsurgency program such as Oplan Bayanihan, people’s rights are violated endlessly.  From January to May 2014 alone, there are already 21 victims of extrajudicial killings and 23 victims of frustrated killing. Also, the BS Aquino regime is accountable for the illegal arrest and detention of some 640 individuals and almost 40,000 victims of forced evacuation from militarized communities. 
2. All political prisoners are released. There is no freedom if the government arrests and jails all its critics for trumped up charges. At present, Karapatan’s documentation reveals  there are 489 political prisoners in different detention centers in the Philippines; 213 of them arrested and jailed under the US-Aquino regime. To be able to practice one's political belief is a concept that comes with freedom and democracy. 
3. All human rights violators are convicted and jailed.  There can be no independence when there is impunity. As long as butchers such as Gen. Jovito Palparan and other masterminds of killings, disappearances, and other forms of rights violations continue to walk free, the victims and their families will never get justice. 
4. Corrupt public officials are punished. As long as plunderers of the nation’s coffers occupy even the highest government position in the land, there can never be independence.  As long as the government bureaucracy is used to further the economic interests of the ruling elite, there can be no independence. 
5. Social services such as health, housing, education are free and accessible to everyone. The government’s Public-Private Partnership or PPP deprives the Filipino people of these basic services as more health and education facilities are surrendered to big business. A free and independent Philippines envisions every Filipino, children and adults alike, are cared for and decent shelter is available.  
6. US military intervention is rejected. However, this is impossible with the recently signed Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US on April 28, 2014. EDCA allows the US troops access to Philippine military facilities and camps without any rent. Worse, it allows storage of war materiel in the country, a clear magnet for attacks from many of US’s enemies.  The agreement ensures that US troops are permanently based in the country and the Philippines will be used by the US government as staging ground to violate the rights of citizens of other countries.
7. Genuine agrarian reform is implemented. No, it is not the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) nor its extension, the CARPER,   failed to distribute land to landless tiller-farmers. Genuine agrarian reform means ensuring that every farmer-tiller would have lands to till and would fully benefit from the sweat and blood they invest in their produce.
8. The self-determination and democracy of Moro and indigenous peoples are upheld.  The day the Philippine government respect their rights to their ancestral domain by resisting foreign and local business intrusion in their lands only then, the Moro peoples, the Cordillera peoples and indigenous peoples can truly chart their own development. 
9. The economy is self-reliant and industrialized.  But as long as the government is remains oriented towards export of manpower and raw materials and an importer of finished products, the country remains backward and underdeveloped, and without a strong and modern agriculture and manufacturing sectors.  
10. Unequal economic relations with the United States and other imperialist countries are ended. But, with the lopsided treaties such as those imposed by the World Trade Organization and the forthcoming membership of the Philippines in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the country’s resources remain as milking cow of US and other imperialist countries. More than 100 years after the declaration of independence, the Filipino people live on crumbs as US and other capitalist countries squeeze out the remains of the country’s resources. ###


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