Advocacy and democracy

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos - Columnist/CDN Digital | May 07,2020 - 07:56 AM


One of my still-to-be-fulfilled  dreams is to huddle colleagues and to ask  what shaped them to pursue this challenging field of protecting and defending our natural life support system. 

It is certainly in a tougher arena to be an advocate in the Philippines, which is reputed “one of the most dangerous countries in the world to stand up for your environment and your land rights.” 

Global Witness considers violence against environmental advocates in our country as “a systemic problem, spanning many different regions of the country and many different industries” including coal, mining, agribusiness and logging.

People in media, judges and prosecutors are also not spared. We condemn another killing  of a radio broadcaster in Dumaguete City, Cornelio Pepino, two days after World Press Freedom Day. 

It is bad enough to suffer from the uncertainty that this pandemic brings. It is disconcerting that harassment and killings continue to be inflicted upon our people because they refused to remain silent.

Kudos to  a fellow advocate and friend, Maria Victoria “Bambi” Beltran, whose satirical FB post was deemed fake news, who was recently selected as one of 17 laureates of the 2020 Deutsche Welle (DW) Freedom of Speech Award. The DW Freedom of Speech Award is given annually to a person or initiative that has shown outstanding commitment to human rights and freedom of expression in the media.

The closure of ABS-CBN is another blow to our fight to uphold press freedom and civil and political rights. As the EcoWaste Coalition puts it, “As an advocate of the people’s right to know, we consider the silencing of the ABS-CBN as a severe blow to the freedom of speech and of the press and contrary to the state policy that “recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation-building…It sends a chilling effect on the exercise of the freedom of expression and civil liberties, especially by the marginalized sectors who avail of the service and network of ABS-CBN as a platform to discuss issues of public concern and safety.  A shackled press is not what we need to “heal as one” and win the war against this ruthless coronavirus.”

Respecting the rights of our people is essential if we are to heal as one. 

The double whammy crisis humanity is living through  — climate change and COVID-19 — is an opportunity for us to re-imagine the world that we want our children and their children to have and act accordingly. Sustainable, safe, healthy communities under the Rule of Law — we must fight for.

As our beloved Dr. Jane Goodall said, “Let’s all use the gift of our lives to make this world a better place, especially at this time. Together, we shall get through this really difficult time and we shall have learned what’s truly important in life: family, friendship, love and above all—our health.”

Until then — stay healthy in mind, body and spirit and be courageous always./dbs

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