Back home after an eye opening study visit to Manila.
The state of human rights in the Philippines is shocking. Absolute poverty and hunger are a reality for many, as a quarter of the population live below the poverty line. That’s 25 million people living on less than a dollar a day.
The political culture is unlikely to hold the descision makers accountable. Parties emerge and disappear in every election. Fake news, bots and troll armies serving the political establishment are a strong weapon in any society, but they are even more powerful in a country with a low level of education and one of the most active social media audiences in the whole world. For journalists the Philippines is the third deadliest country to live in.
The country is ruled by a dictator Duterte, whose War Against Drugs is a perfect example of the insanity of the situation. After taking office in 2016 he has set aside the basic principles of justice and declared a war on drugs, assigning the police forces to chase down everyone who uses or sells drugs, most commonly shabu which is a sort of metamphetamine.
The policy has led to slaughtering of more than 20 000 people in less than two years. Most of them were shot, many directly by the police. Countless victims have been found on the streets with their heads wrapped in packaging tape, and a cardboard sign attached to their bodies saying ”Drug Pusher”. Many have been framed by the police, as Duterte has set a financial incentive for the officers to find the drug dealers. Most of the killings are extrajuridical. The calls for murder investigations insisted by the families of the victims are rarely filed.
The drug usage issue becomes critical because of the lack of health services available for drug users. The narrative created on social media however gives people an impression that people who use drugs are beyond rehabilitation. We all know that hard threats and violence are no solution to addictions.
A long road lies ahead in building a society that respects the human rights and freedoms. The most worrying notion and a global trend is that development towards a liberal democracy is not automatic. The direction can also turn around and instead of archieving more freedoms, we can also lose them. However, it makes me glad to see so many young people fighting for equality, standing against the cardboard justice, advocating for human rights and political freedoms. And they do it with so much hope. And I admire that.
On my way home I tried to google more about the society and the politics of the country, but my finnish google search only brought me to some of the travel blogs published in women’s magazines and blogs.
I am not saying that tourism is wrong – it can at it’s best be the opposite – or that travel blogs should only be about politics. But the lack of references to the humanitarian and political situation in all of the writings is disappointing.
If the Philippines are in the worst end of the indexes of press freedom and human development, Finland is one of the best.
It might not be a sexy opinion among the instagram generation, but even the women’s magazines should carry at least 8 sentences worth of global responsibility by mentioning that the reason behind the fact that in the Philippines you can live with 20 euros a day is that for one out of four citizens in the country the same sum covers the whole month.
Maybe it would be a little harder for the right wing governments to cut from the development aid because ”Finland is in a difficult financial stage” if everyone actually knew what it means to live in a dictatorship and in poverty.