Friday ∗ 07 Oct 2016

#EveryONE: A call to protect human rights and uphold democratic principles

Imagined speech against Sen. Leila M. de Lima hypothetically delivered by VP Jojo Binay in a place and time in the past when it was the de Lima who was in power.

Sa panahon kung kelan lantaran akong pinagtutulungan at tila ba kinukuyog ng mga lalaki at babaeng kapwa ko nagtatrabaho sa gobyerno, kanino pa nga ba ako kukuha ng lakas kundi sa mga kapwa ko tao? I am still here. Huwag po kayong mag-alala. Siguro yung iba nagtataka: Bakit nandiyan pa siya? Bakit nakatayo pa siya? Bakit buhay pa siya? Nandito pa po ako, at habang nakatayo ako, lalaban po ako.

Kamangha-mangha po ang mga nagaganap sa ating lipunan ngayon.

“Buhay at Tao” ang tema po natin ngayon. Angkop na angkop sa mga nangyayari ngayon. Allow me please to dwell largely on the issue of man. Isyu ng tao. Human rights, human dignity.

As many of you may know, over the last eight (8) years, I have been to scores of events like this: human rights consciousness events that further the advocacy for women’s rights through awareness of women’s issues. I have delivered dozens of speeches before hundreds, if not thousands, of audience members about the same or similar issues over the course of that same time period.

While each event is unique in its own way, which made it easier to tailor the message appropriately and accordingly, the overall theme was mostly the same: the celebration of progress and achievements of the human rights movements, the acknowledgement of challenges that remain, thoughts on how to address and overcome those remaining challenges, acknowledging the growing awareness and participation of men in addressing women’s issues yet calling for much more in the future, and basically speaking from my own experiences as a public servant, a lawyer, a son, a parent, a sibling and, in general, as a human being.

But this year, this event we are holding at this very moment, coming off of my experiences these last few month, iba po ito.

Ibang-iba ito.

Aaminin ko, na sa dinami-rami ng mga pinagdaan ko bilang isang tao – bilang anak, kapatid, asawa, magulang, abogada, tagapagtanggol ng mga nabiktima ng karahasan at ng paglabag sa kanilang mga karapatan, lalo na ng kanilang karapatang pantao – akala ko ay maalam at beterano na ako pagdating sa buhay, lalo na sa tema ng buhay ng tao.

Life has a funny way of teaching you lessons in the least expected and, yes, quite painful and traumatic ways. Just when you think that, at a particular age, although I am not that old yet, and with all these life and professional experiences, there are no longer any “big” life lessons left to be learned, life happens, things happen, and prove you wrong.

Pinaramdam sa akin ng kapalaran na may isang aspeto ng pagiging tao na hindi ko pa pala lubos na nararanasan: ang maging biktima.

A victim –  of direct, targeted, unrelenting, vicious, malicious and intentionally destructive attacks virtually from all directions, both from known* and unknown assailants.

There are things that you think you can learn vicariously, but at some point, you will realize, as I have, that nothing adequately prepares you for the shock, the pain, the trauma, the bouts of helplessness, the moments of doubt and, through it all, the vague feeling of unreality, of being trapped in a surrealistic nightmare – the very absurdity of which makes it difficult to comprehend, much more fight to escape and wake up from – that come with becoming a victim.

Noon po, kapag nasa harapan ko ang nabiktima, umaandar agad ang utak ko: ano ang nangyari, bakit nangyari, ano ang pwede gawin para mahinto nang tuluyan ang pang-aabuso, ano ang dapat pang mangyari at gawin para huwag nang maulit ang pang-aabuso o madagdagan pa ang mabibiktima, sino ang dapat managot, etcetera, etcetera. Ako mismo, mabilis pong kumilos. Umaandar kaagad ang tapang ko. Pag natuon ko na ang karapat-dapat gawin, aksyon agad. That’s what I would normally do. That’s who I “normally” am. A person of action.

But when I was on the receiving end of a relentless slew of blow after blow, after blow of unmitigatedly unfair, underhanded and out-of-bounds lies and attacks against my person and womanhood, I met a part of myself that, up to that point, I did not know existed. Iyong parte ng pagkatao ko na napapainda sa mga suntok ng kalaban. Iyong parte na napapahinto at napapatahimik paminsan-minsan, lalo na kapag wala sa mata ng publiko, when I would be in the privacy of my room. Iyong parte ng pagkatao ko na, para makaalpas sa pinakamasasakit na dagok, ay kinailangang maging manhid at tuod pansamantala. Opo, maging manhid, pansamantala.

It’s definitely a darker side of me. The person who has had sleepless nights, the person who sat and contemplated what has one done to deserve such treatment. On worse days, the person who began to believe that maybe, just maybe, this is punishment for daring, not just to be human, but to be a person. The person who was driven to such frustration that s/he was forced, against her / his will, to act and speak in public without the filter of “the professional”. This is like what you saw the other night when I was ganged up on in that hearing by men.

But this person is definitely a part of me.

And I am privileged, I must tell you, to have met this person.

For he is also the survivor in me. The one who, after those dark moments, somehow found another reserve of strength to tap from in order to fight and counter the submission hold he found herself momentarily trapped in. Kumbaga sa martial arts, he is the Ultimate Fighting Champion in me because he’s more than just a one-trick pony.

For he is also the side of me who found the capacity, against all odds, to find forgiveness for those who were forced to tell lies against him and betray him. Hindi ko na naman po alam kung sino-sino na naman ang ipapaharap bukas sa House inquiry na ‘yan na maglalantaran na magsisinungaling. For he understood what it felt like to be helpless, to be held against his will. To be victimized.

<…>

I don’t deserve to be abused. And when I am abused, it is not because I am at fault, not because I was asking for it, not because I deserved it. But because my abusers aren’t intelligent enough to recognize my value, to appreciate me, and respect me.

That is the lesson I learned from the other side of me that I have had the pain and the pleasure to get to know these past few months.

I thank him for the lessons. I thank him for being strong. For being who he is, for embracing who he is, his weaknesses and his humanity. All of these have made be stronger and, whether I wanted it or not, allowed me a greater affinity with my fellow victims. No, not victims, fellow survivors, who, at the end of our trials, may not be the exact same persons we were before, but will nonetheless be a better person for all our experiences and triumphs over our trials.

Maraming salamat po. ***

1. De Lima is exercising “selective justice” under the administration which he accused of “conniving to discredit, belittle, pressure, remove him as vice president and jail” him, while not going after Aquino allies involved in “widespread anomalies.”

2. De Lima said that “even assuming that this admin failed to deliver to the people, which is simply not true, does this automatically make VP Binay the nation’s savior? Does the salvation of the Filipino race now rest upon him.”

3. In a statement, De Lima said that although Binay was an impeachable official, he could still be charged. De Lima noted that in all impeachable officials, only President Benigno S. Aquino III has immunity from suit. She said that being an impeachable official means that the said official could not be removed from office, but only through an impeachment.

4. “They are already fomenting lawlessness and chaos in Makati without any regard to authority and peace and order. No public official can treat any part of LGU territory as his own kingdom and government office as a royal entitlement,” De Lima said. “Our local governments are still a part of our republican government. They are not kingdoms unto themselves and their mayors should not act like petty kings who can disregard the law with impunity,” she added.

Posted in: bayan, conversations, gobyerno, komentaryo, pulitika

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