Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago chided her opponents in the 2016 presidential race for not giving adequate attention in their respective campaigns.
In a statement posted on her website, Santiago noted that three of her rivals for the presidency did not respond to a questionnaire sent by international organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) to all presidential candidates last March. “Human rights should be at the forefront of the agenda of any person running for public office. A rights-based approach in public policy has historically proven to be most effective,” the senator said.
HRW sought to know the candidates’ stand on a wide array of human rights issues including resolving extrajudicial killings, violence against indigenous groups, the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, journalist killings, summary executions, the Anti-Torture Law, persons displaced due to conflict, and the HIV/AIDS situation.
Santiago then touted the different laws she either authored or voted for like Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women, R.A. 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity, and the highly controversial R.A. No. 10354, or the Reproductive Health Law.
The veteran legislator however emphasized that “policies aimed at promoting human rights are meaningless unless fully and wholeheartedly implemented.” For example, she mentioned that no one has been convicted of perpetrating torture despite the Anti Torture Law. There’s also the hurdles in the implementation of RH Law due to budget cuts.
Santiago vowed that as president, she will be prioritizing the following human rights issues:
- The swift approval of the Freedom of Information Law, to open the military to scrutiny amid allegations of abuses and to protect journalists;
- The abolition of private armies and a review of state sponsorship of militias and paramilitary groups;
- Full and conscientious implementation of the RH Law;
- An immediate review of the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture, and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life;
- The introduction of a national quick response hotline for enforced disappearances and torture;
- The urgent passage of the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Act; and
- The declaration of a national emergency to address the spread of HIV/AIDS.