What’s The Difference Between Human Rights And Human Lives?

In President Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address, he said, “your concern is human rights, mine is human lives.

Sounds nice, right?

Makes you think that focusing on the technicality, the systems behind the conception of laws is the issue at hand. That through that, we forget the essence of life. It’s all system, and nothing genuine. However, the idea behind the conception of human rights is the essence of human life. You cannot separate the two in the discussion of laws and legality. They are inherently synonymous.

How do you even define human rights?

According to the United Nations (UN), human rights are universal and inalienable, interdependent and indivisible, equal and non-discriminatory, and entail both rights and obligations. Thus, human rights should not be taken away, inherently connected to every aspect of one’s life, should be applied to everyone regardless of race, sex, color, etc.

You can find the rights of Filipinos, called the Bill of Rights, in Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Its 22 sections state the obligations and responsibilities of the Constitution to protect the Filipino’s rights and privileges.

Human existence is not in a vacuum.

We are always born into a complex society of rules, institutions, conventions, of differing identities. Moreover, politics in itself is the fact of human plurality. It is not defined by an abstract definition nor a universal one. Rather, it is dependent upon political actors i.e. everybody that defines such a term. Any social endeavor is based upon human beings. 

Thus, President Duterte’s statement proves itself to be contradictory.

To put a dichotomy for the two entails a hierarchy. That human lives are more important than human rights. It sounds attractive, and just. However, the two should be synonymous. This only provides an avenue for powerful people to justify their actions. Ultimately, devaluing human rights devalues human lives.

Thus, it’s more likely that the higher class will have the upper hand once again. As if it’s only their lives that should matter because they have resources and access to voice out their opinions. Because the government chooses to see them and them only. Meanwhile, it’s the lower class that are painted at the other end of the spectrum: evil. That they are the reason for the country’s failures. A prevailing example of this is the war on drugs.

What President Duterte has implemented backfired extremely badly. There are political and physical forces that take advantage of this appointed freedom in order to follow such imperatives.

Case in point, extrajudicial killings.

Everyone has the right to live. In a society borne from systems and institutions, to devalue and remove the rights of a person practically abolishes their right to live.


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