Last December 9, 2013, the members of The Nameless and students from the School of Economics CWTS class organized a human rights forum, open to everyone. Prior to the forum, my batch mates and I were preparing The Nameless Gallery in the AS Lobby. I honestly did not know what to expect from the forum. Little did I know, the forum would turn out to be a series of not just subjective talks, but also objective ones.
The forum started with the history and background of human rights by Congressman Ibarra Gutierrez III from the Akbayan Party List. He gave a very brief yet substantial discussion of the concepts of human rights and the origins from which it came from. He also discussed the framework of the universal human rights that the United Nations promulgated right after World War II. After his discussion, an open forum was held to answer questions. He was asked about the weight of different rights of individuals and the state, which he answered very clearly and thoroughly.
After the historical background, Rose Trajano, the Secretary General of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights (PAHRA), went to the podium and gave a lecture about the current state of human rights in the Philippines. She tackled topics such as the major advocacies and trials that human rights go through and actions being made to promote and fulfill these human rights.
The next speaker was Rodolfo Salas, the former Chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). He went on to talk about how the state of human rights differed from the time of Martial Law and how it is currently doing now. He even told us stories of the times he got arrested, like the time in Martial Law. He was very casual about his talk and he interacted often with us, eliciting giggles and soft laughs from the audience members.
Next on the program was a talk on people who fell victim to being violated in terms of their human rights. A lady, whose name I could not recall, told her stories about how she was sexually violated during the time of the Martial Law. Her stories never once failed to make me shudder in the thought of those things being done to myself. I would be so traumatized if the things that were done to her happened to me, so I greatly admire her strength to not only share her terrifying experience but also being able to move on with her life and forgiving the people who have hurt her. Unfortunately, since the program started late, there was no time to hold a long open forum after all the speakers.
I didn’t expect to learn so much from this forum. Not only did it open my eyes to the reality of violation of human rights in general, but it also gave me a history and background of what human rights is and how it started. It was informative and insightful listening to all the speakers share their take on human rights. I think what I liked most about this forum is that it covered a wide range of topics and didn’t just focus on personal thoughts on it—it had discussion on the history of it too, which I very much appreciated. I would have liked, however, to have experienced a debate on certain human rights issues, like gender discrimination and human trafficking. That would also be interesting to witness. I’ve realized that there’s so much to learn and so much I have yet to know about how the world deals with these issues on human rights.