WHEN Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre cried foul over the use by Sen. Risa Hontiveros of photos of him during a Senate hearing texting a suggestion to a member of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) to speed up the filing of cases against her, he claimed that his right to privacy was violated. “Text messages are private communications,” he said. “Any unauthorized intrusion into such exchanges is illegal and betrays the Constit ut i on.”
Let us not dwell on the debate on whether or not Hontiveros’s act violated Aquirre’s right to privacy. But the justice secretary is correct about that right being in the 1987 Constitution and several other Philippine constitutions before it. What he failed to recognize, however, is that the right to privacy is in turn a fundamental human right included in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and other international covenants and treaties.
This just shows that while the Duterte administration has been trying to muddle people’s understanding of human rights and by extension the function of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) obviously to weaken opposition to some of the questionable methods used in its war against illegal drugs, its officials have no qualms embracing these rights when convenient.
Human rights are not only about “life, liberty and personal security”or due process. These cover a broad spectrum that even includes food and housing, education, adequate standard of living— and many others that we tend to overlook because these have already become an integral part of modern society’s functioning. Unfortunately, because we have not been enlightened on the matter, government has succeeded in making the concept of human rights look bad to a number of Filipinos.
The people’s lack of enlightenment on the human rights issue is what has made the majority in the House of Representatives acquire the daring to appropriate a P1,000 budget for the CHR for 2018. Thankfully, however, the same widely criticized act seems to have jump-started efforts to educate Filipinos on the concept of human rights and the function of the CHR. Hopefully, that could lead to people’s enlightenment, which is necessary to advance human rights and foster a respect of CHR’s mandate and function.