At the heart of the issue of human rights is the moral issue of poverty, according to Vice President Jejomar Binay.
“As one Nobel Peace Prize awardee once said, ‘Poverty is the absence of all human rights,’” Binay said in a statement on the observance of Human Rights Day on Wednesday.
In the same statement, the Vice President added that his vision is for every Filipino to have “an equal share in the nation’s progress.”
“No one should be left behind. Together, let us continue to transform with our hands the ideals of human rights into reality where we all have the freedom to live our lives and thrive,” he said.
Binay was a human-rights lawyer during the martial law years, co-founding the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism (Mabini) with fellow human-rights lawyers Joker Arroyo and Rene Saguisag.
“Safeguarding human dignity and the rights of individuals is an issue which I championed in my early years as a lawyer and activist,” he said.
The Vice President noted that while significant strides have been made in upholding and promoting human rights, the Philippines is still “a long way off from a society that truly respects and protects the human rights of every man, woman and child.”
“Many of our people continue to remain at risk of harassment, acts of violence, cruel treatment, and even death. Our task therefore is to put a stop to the long culture of impunity that perpetuates abuses,” he said.
The Philippines, according to the Vice President, takes pride in being one of the signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) drafted by the United Nations.
“Respect for human rights as state policy has [also]been enshrined in our 1987 Constitution when it declares, ‘The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights,’” he said.
According to the latest quarterly survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS), 59 percent of Filipino families considered themselves “mahirap” or poor in the last quarter of 2015, an increase of nine percentage points.
The SWS attributed the rise in poverty rate to the higher percentage of families who claimed they are poor in the rest of Luzon (from 38 percent to 54 percent), Metro Manila (from 32 percent to 38 percent), and Visayas (from 66 percent to 71 percent).
But poverty incidence in Mindanao was lower (from 70 percent to 67 percent).
Meanwhile, economist and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said the Philippines’ economic growth did not ease poverty in the country.
“Strong, sustained growth is a necessary condition for poverty reduction, but it is not a sufficient one. It matters where growth is coming from, and whether it is inclusive,” Diokno added.