UP professor educates Robredo and the Liberals on Human Rights issue - The Daily Sentry

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

UP professor educates Robredo and the Liberals on Human Rights issue

Francisco Pascual Tranquilino and VP Leni Robredo
A member of the UP academe decided to school Leni Robredo and the Liberals on the issue of human rights amid their criticism over Duterte’s statement addressed to his detractors, “Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives.”

Got Schooled

On a post he shared on Facebook, Francisco Pascual Tranquilino, MD, a physician and a professor at University of the Philippines, wrote a comprehensive discussion on human rights addressed to VP Leni Robredo and the opposition in general. This is in connection with their statement criticizing the president’s words saying that while his detractors are concerned with human rights, his main priority is human lives.

Professor Tranquilino stressed that the president’s statement was not misleading and is not a false dichotomy as what Robredo claims it to be, rather, it highlights the contrasting view of a person whose take on human rights is realistic (Duterte) versus the purist liberal interpretation viewed by the opposition.

Understanding Human Rights 

The UP professor added that to fully understand the subject of human rights, we have to know the three approaches that have been used universally. First is the Essentialist approach wherein the rights that humans have a thousand years ago should be the same rights that we have right now.

Second is the Legal Conception wherein the rights that humans have are those that were enacted by governing bodies. The problems arise when there are rights made by UN human rights bodies which are not legally binding through international laws.

The third is the Practical Conception wherein the rights as formed through the shared norms of the obligation of states and other powerful social bodies.

The Ideal Human Rights

According to Tranquilino, for human rights to be effective, it should involve the people and its aspirations. The traditional human rights that we follow, the western-influenced, the colonial-capitalist, and the liberal-dictated one should be changed and redefined with one that is people-driven, demand-driven programs for the oppressed.
President Duterte’s form of human rights is totally acceptable according to Tranquilino, since the utmost consideration for the welfare of his people was given, and he is responding to the evolving needs of the people.

Read full post below:


Francisco P. Tranquilino, M.D

03 August 2018

In her recent speech during the awarding of the laughable 2018 Liberal International Prize for Freedom to indicted felon Leila DeLIEma, Robredo took a shot at President Duterte’s SONA comment “Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives. The lives of our youth are being wasted and families are destroyed, and all because of the chemicals called shabu, cocaine, cannabis and heroine.”

Robredo retorted: “What happened to us? And where is our nation going now? After decades of demonstrating leadership when it comes to human rights, we now realize that in the Philippines today, the way Filipinos understand human rights is still largely dependent on the actions of the powerful.” She insisted that President Duterte’s statement is a false and misleading dichotomy and advised every Filipino: “It is time to speak up and work as one. The more we do, the more we are able to make the fight for human rights relevant.”

Most people are aware of human rights and know the importance of maintaining them. However, people remain ignorant regarding the debates surrounding the implementation of human rights for imperialism (1). And Robredo is one of them!

Imperialism is a policy of extending control or authority over foreign entities as a means of acquisition and/or maintenance of empires, either through direct territorial conquest or through indirect methods of exerting control on the politics and/or economy of other countries. And so “human rights imperialism” is an attempt to maintain or extend control or authority under the banner of human rights. Bilawal Atwal believes that the terminology of human rights has given the concept normative weight, from both the mainstream and throughout international relations. The argument for this form of imperialism is that the states that promote it, or have the greatest spheres of influences, can use this normative weight to accomplish national interests under the banner of human rights.

The concept of human rights is being abused by some states or groups in order to exert their influence on a sovereign nation as a cornerstone of their foreign-policy interaction to eventually achieve their own interests. The powerful and influential entities are the ones who ultimately define human rights and what constitutes its violation. This therefore becomes an ethical dilemma.

Human rights were formed from Liberalism (1). The concept advocated by the Liberals as with the rest of the developed western world is that all individuals have equal rights and those promoting it must be respected. However, fundamental flaws and inconsistencies exist, allowing only those with power to determine which rights must be safeguarded, using their own standards and moral compass in affording legitimacy to their actions.

This concept of human rights enforced by the west took its prominence in the post-Cold War era, with varying forms and justifications but ultimately depend on the same argument that human rights are more important than the sovereignty of states (2). This clearly presents a problem, powerful states imposing their moral standards on weaker ones, double standards, insistence on only political and civil rights and disregard for economic and social rights.

This Liberal intervention under the guise of protecting human rights misses other important conditions in a sovereign state that the interventionist is allegedly trying to “protect.” It disregards the people in a developing country. Again, as Stephen Kinzer noted, “the problem seems to be the narrow egocentric definition of what human rights are. Human rights need to be considered in a political concept. The question should not be whether a particular leader or regime violates western-conceived standards of human rights. Instead, it should be whether a leader or regime, in totality, is making life better or worse for ordinary people (3).

To fully understand what constitutes human rights, it is possible to identify three approaches (4):

a. Essentialist conception. Human rights cannot change – what the rights were of human beings a thousand years ago are the same rights now

b. Legal conception. Rights are understood as legal rights that persons have in virtue of positive enactments by legitimate governing bodies. The legal conception may be thought overly limiting as there are UN Human Rights Declarations that articulate rights but which are not currently legally binding through the international law.

c. Practical conception. Conceives of human rights as shared norms about the obligation of states and other powerful social actors. These norms are responsive to the changing contexts of human life and are developed through an open discussion of shared values and concerns.

For human rights to work, it should obtain legitimacy by involving the people and their aspirations. The concept must be redefined. The western-influenced, liberal-dictated, white supremacist, patriarchal, colonial-capitalist, intellectual elite-guided framework, replaced by bottom-up, participatory, people-centered, and demand-driven programs for the oppressed. The people’s demands for public services, the right to organize, the fight for a living wage, ending discriminatory hiring practices (5), protecting lives from the ill-effects of narcotics and related crimes, are some of the significant issues that should re-define human rights.

Using this same context, the comment by President Duterte: ”Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives,” highlights the contrasting points of view of a realist perception versus a purist liberal interpretation of human rights. But clearly, the comparison is not a misleading and false dichotomy as claimed by Robredo and the other Liberal simpletons.

Attitudes toward certain human rights are socially and culturally specific (6). And people in different countries may have different views about what human right policies would be most appropriate for achieving their desired conditions of living, for achieving peace and order or economic growth.

Standards and values are unique to every culture. Any attempt to generalize norms and guidelines out of the beliefs and moral codes of one culture poses a dilemma in applying any human rights standards universally (7). As the journalist and former human rights activist Stephen Kinzer pointed out in 2010, in advocating for the change in universal human rights, (referring to the Rwandan regime who has improved its citizens quality of life in some ways) that, “this authoritarian regime is the best thing that has happened to Rwanda… People in Rwanda are happy with it, thrilled at their future prospects and not angry that there is not a wide enough range of newspapers or political parties.” Kinzer’s perspective is that in special situations, the aspirations of humans vary, some rights can supersede and ignore others considered less important (8). And any attempt to impose western-conceived moral standards to classify a style of rule as unacceptable would easily be seen as imperialism.

The idea of human rights, therefore, is not absolute and universal. Cultural diversity must be considered. It is a representation of the international norm at a particular time. Western dominance was at the world’s hegemony when the protection of human rights was primarily invoked, hence the development of human rights ideals reflects to be one of many Western imperialist phenomenon (5). At this particular point in time is where people like Robredo are stuck and insist in perpetuating. As Gyoung Lee said, “The perpetual question of human dignity is indeed a task that calls for many more generations to anatomize, but for the current being, I believe that the idea of human rights cannot ever be a concrete concept applicable to the entire humanity, nor can survive the test of time as the world is constantly evolving.”

The stand taken by President Duterte with respect to human rights is a totally acceptable, practical approach (practical conception), with utmost consideration and response to the changing needs of his people. While Robredo takes on the Liberal’s elitist, essentialist conception devoid of any attempt to heed the people’s desires.

Robredo and the Liberal nincompoops, must therefore be reminded: “Humanity may have common grounds, but needs and aspirations vary according to circumstances” (Historian Barbara Tuchman)




1. B Atwal. Are Human Rights Dominated by Imperialism? catch21.co.uk. December 2013

2. R Kieley. Intervention – imperialism or Human Rights. Open Democracy. October 2014

3. S Kinzer. End Human Rights Imperialism Now. The guardian. December 2010

4. K Mathiesen. Human Rights Without Cultural imperialism. Perceptions on Libraries as Institutions of Human Rights and Social Justice. Emerald Publishing. 2016: 265-286

5. A Baraka. The Human Rights Project: Determined by the Needs of the Powerful. fpif.org. December 2013

6. C Foley. Beware Human Rights Imperialism. The Guardian. June 2009

7. LN Gyoung Lee. Is the Idea of Human Rights A Universal Concept or a Representation of Western Culture Imperialism. theowp.org reports. March 2017

8. NP Suarez. Of the Universality of Human Rights. The Initiation for Equal Rights. October 2015

9. UJ Heuer and G Schirmer. Human Rights Imperialism. Monthly Review. March 1998

10. V Goldstein. Human Rights Imperialism: A Path Paved with Good Intentions. Center for Syncretic Studies, Fort Russ. July 2018

ctto of photos

Source: Francisco Pascual Tranquilino