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How two otherwise unrelated subjects – human rights and my senatorial rating – became linked and a hot topic these past two days is actually the President’s fault. In a radio interview in New Zealand last Tuesday, Pres. Aquino was asked about the continuing human rights violations in the country. He became defensive and sought to dismiss the issue by saying that it was just the Left making all these noises about human rights and that while such groups were very good at propaganda, their senatorial bet – me to be sure – was lagging in the surveys.

I was dismayed by the President’s statements for three reasons.

One, the President echoed the dangerous line of former major-general-turned-fugutive Jovito Palparan and his boss GMA that alarming reports of human rights violations are nothing but “Leftist propaganda.” Simply dismissing as such the valuable and arduous work of human rights activists, victims, their families and friends is not only a grave injustice but perpetuates the culture of impunity by which these abuses are done.

Two, the President rubbed salt on the wounds of the human rights victims and their families. While himself a victim of the martial law regime, he seemed to have forgotten why victims and their supporters are so strident and persistent about human rights – because for them it is a life and death issue.

Our human rights advocacy is not mere propaganda to discredit his administration. It is about finding a missing son or daughter. It is about seeking justice for a murdered loved one. It is about holding the perpetrators to account so that the killings and disappearances stop.

Three, the President stooped so low as to ridicule my survey ratings just to discredit and dismiss fellow human rights advocates who have been the most persistent in exposing the truth about the continuing extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and harrassment of journalists and activists. Why the President had to do this escapes me. Perhaps he was clutching at straws to defend his administration’s sordid human rights record which, as of last count, includes 114 extrajudicial killings, 127 frustrated killings, 70 persons tortured, 12 disappeared, and human rights violators remaining scott free.

Whatever it is, the President had no right belittling the survey ratings of candidates like me who are at a disadvantage compared to rich, powerfull, pedigreed politicians like him and his coalition partners. To think that were it not for his lineage and his mother’s death, he wouldn’t even have rated as a presidential contender in 2010.

As for Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, well, its his job to protect the President. But to twist the story and make it appear that the issue is about my ratings and the Left’s propaganda is to totally ignore the more important issue of the government’s failure to protect human rights in this country.#

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