Statement of Likhaan on the current political crisis

Likhaan is a non-governmental organization that delivers basic health care to poor communities. It works to ensure people’s human rights, including the right to health and sexual and reproductive health and rights. In this way, it hopes to help alleviate the poverty of individual women, their families and their communities. More importantly, it seeks to strengthen the capacity of people to participate in the building of democratic processes and institutions.  It takes the view that genuine social change is a long process that requires material and non-material investments in people’s capacity to think and act for themselves.

Since the declaration of the state of emergency last February 24, 2006, our community organizers report that there is genuine fear brought about by the threat to civil liberties. One of our young organizers expressed fear of arrest for holding organizational meetings, educational sessions, etc. Other community members said that they are fearful that statements and activities that demand the delivery of government services or that question government decisions and actions would be punished. These are the immediate and observable effects of Proclamation 1017 and the subsequent civil rights violations.

We are all witness to these: police brutality and violent dispersal of peaceful protests, warrantless arrests, illegal searches and seizures, media censorship and threats to press freedom. Proclamation 1017 has also been used to justify the revocation of rally permits and, under this guise, the violation of the right to assembly.

Furthermore, Proclamation 1017 is in itself a vicious distortion of the Philippine Constitution.

We are at the brink of tyranny. A president faced with serious evidence of cheating her way into office, instead of facing the consequences has, step by step, deployed her vast powers to stifle redress and dissent. Over the past few months, she and her allies have killed the impeachment process, silenced witnesses, gagged congressional investigations, and dispersed rallies at whim, calling such brutalities “calibrated preemptive response”. And now we have emergency rule.

By her own actions, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has lost any claim to legitimacy, to ruling based on consent.

Tyrants feed on silence, apathy and acquiescence. We refuse to comply.

It is our decision to resist government’s attempts to stifle civil and political rights. We have not worked for so long only to have some tyrant overturn our efforts to help communities exercise their democratic entitlements without fear.

In this regard we are aware that Filipinos are seeking alternatives. We, ourselves have been educating communities that good governance does not mainly depend on the appearance of a rallying figure or a heroic leader. That ordinary people do have a decisive role in shaping government and making it accountable. That responsive and effective governance can only come about through democratic processes and the building of strong social institutions. Thus, rather than focusing on personalities or shortcut solutions, we support a democratic transition governance process.

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Such a process should move immediately towards ensuring fair and clean national elections. It must do so by throwing out the current rascals in the Commission on Elections. It must then move to put in place procedures and processes that will ensure transparency, efficiency, fairness and integrity. Based on the experience of the Cory Aquino revolutionary government, we believe that this should be accomplished within one year.

We are opposed to any prolongation of leadership by any person or group of people who do not have an electoral mandate, no matter how competent or well intentioned they may be. We are aware that prompt elections may very well lead to the return of the usual crop of unworthy elite politicians. Nonetheless, we would rather put our faith in our people and invest in our long-term learning as a nation, rather than rely on messianic leaders– civilian or military–who have no accountability.

The transitional government must address the needs of the poor as a matter of social justice and equity. In all its programs and services, it must insure the human rights of people in all spheres–political, economic, social and cultural. It must never abridge the people’s rights to expression and to demand accountability of the transitional authority.

The transitional government must ensure that it keeps itself free of undue influence from traditional powerbrokers. While responding to the legitimate needs and grievances of the military and police, it must guarantee professionalism in the armed services and uphold civilian supremacy at all times. While respecting religious freedom, it must guarantee the separation of Church and State and end politicians’ practice of courting support by imposing sectarian doctrine as government policy, often to the detriment of women’s wellbeing and rights.

As health workers we believe in the nonpartisan nature of the service we provide. All persons regardless of religious, political or other types of affiliation should have access to health services that assure their wellbeing and dignity. We have accepted the fact that health is not the stuff of headlines. Through periods of crisis or calm in our national life we have continued to work on what most consider “soft” issues. But we speak out now in this time of crisis because our work, though never partisan, is not apolitical. Without basic democratic processes, without civil and political rights, we cannot heal people and keep them healthy.

Signed:

Sylvia Estrada-Claudio, MD, PhD – Chairperson
Junice Demeterio Melgar, MD – Executive Director
Staff members, Likhaan (Linangan ng Kababaihan, Inc.)

Linangan ng Kababaihan, Inc.
92 Times St., West Triangle Homes
Quezon City 1104 Philippines
Tel: (63 2) 926-6230
Fax: (63 2) 411-3151
E-mail: office@likhaan.net

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