|"On 10 December every year, Human Rights Day commemorates the date on which|
the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights"
It has been 28 years since the EDSA Revolution, which saw the end of the Marcos Regime and the election of a new leader who was looked to by many to lead the Philippines into an era of peace and hope. It was Corazon Aquino herself who said, “Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace it shouldn’t be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice.” Yet, 28 years later, the Philippines is still mired by human rights issues – poverty, corruption, violence and injustice – preventing Filipinos and Filipinas from securing their most basic economic, social and political rights.
Here in Winnipeg, a city where census figures show that Tagalog is the second-most commonly spoken language – over French, and in a province where people of Filipino descent make up five per cent of the population, there is an absence of discourse on the dire human rights situation in the Philippines. There is sensitivity around broaching the topic out of fear despite being in a country seen as “safe” and championing the human rights of all people. This past spring, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights interviewed Marie Hilao-Enriquez for their Oral History Project to document the ongoing struggle for rights realization and peace. It is her hope that Canadians stand in solidarity with those who are seeking justice in the Philippines; in particular, Canadians who have a connection to the motherland.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez was twenty-one years old when she was arrested in 1974. She was one of many students who witnessed the huge and growing gap between the rich and the poor and sought to lessen the divide through education and organization. “We went out of our university classrooms and went to the workers and farmers – our brothers and sisters – to live with them and organize resistance,” Marie told New Internationalist Magazine in a 2004 interview. “We challenged the [Philippine government] about how the country was being run and demanded land and industrial reform.”