With all due respect to the right honorable Supreme Court, the attribution of this speech to the Chief Justice is an insult not only to sophomores everywhere, but also to the real victims of the global terrorist network, most recently those seven young innocent Filipinos in Mindanao, who were kidnapped and were having their heads hacked and savagely sawed off by the Abu Sayyaf/MNLF terrorists perhaps at the very moment that Mr. Chief Justice Puno was putting on the great velvet robes of a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, and rehearsing the lines of this mediocre and tendentious speech...
However, much more than just cosmetics bothered me about the speech. Contrary to a headline published today nowhere in the speech does the Chief Justice actually say that the war on terror is mindless. But Puno does say some truly mindless things that reveal how gravely misinformed he actually is about the terrorist problem--and how naive about the real prospects humanity has of meeting the challenge and arriving at a solution that preserves any of his own ideals and illusions.
The praise release blurb on the website about him probably contains a very painful grain of truth:
A man of Law, Prose and Religion, Chief Justice Reynato Puno exemplifies the modern Filipino intellectual.After reading the speech yourself, and this Commentary I would be very interested in how many of these categories the modern Filipino intellectual ought to be willing to grant Mr. Chief Justice Puno exemplary powers.
It is evident that Mr. Justice Puno is familiar with only a very small smattering of one kind of opinion on the war on terror--mainly the prosaic, imitative kind one finds in our daily newspapers. From the subject speech, one must conclude that it is highly unlikely he has explored very much of the historical and factual background, and even less, the informed commentary on both sides of the issue. Thus the ideas he expresses are neither unique nor original. How can they be? With no apparent basis or preparation in past encounters with ideas, observations and experiences comparable to, but ideally, greater than his own, how can Mr. Justice Puno help himself and the graduates he addresses to surmount the gap and exceed it with some superior moral or principle. He speaks like those lucky persons who've never been mugged and robbed or maimed by thugs and criminals themselves and thus can easily afford to profess a desire and commitment to defend theirrights while ignoring those of their victims or society at large.
CAVEAT: I suppose it is de riguer for Filipinos making commencement addresses to piously invoke the holy memory of our heroes. But why the greatest of them must perpetually be portrayed in the defeat and humiliation of his execution and death rather than the scintillating glory and value of his life can only be explained by the crucifixion of our intellectuals to the submissive traditions instilled by the very Spanish Taliban from which Jose Rizal indeed tried to free us, but has so far failed even in the person of the Chief Justice! This perhaps escapes Mr. Justice Puno's notice, in the retelling of how Rizal turned to face his executioners at the moment of his death (desiring not to be shot in the back as a traitor)--how it is to the West that Rizal faces upon that monument to his honor at the Luneta. I choose this metaphor to describe Jose Rizal because his ideals of liberty and equality--and ours!--are clearly in fraternity with those of the West, and actually bear little resemblance to what now follows...The Old Struggle for Human Rights,[Commencement Address to Graduates of the University of the East, April 17, 2007, Manila Philippines]
New Problems Posed by Security*
Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno
Supreme Court [of the Philippines]
“Tomorrow begins in the East,” trumpets the motto of this venerable institution of learning. In his last moments in Bagumbayan, our national hero Jose Rizal stared at tomorrow in the eye, veered his bullet-riddled body to the right and fell lifeless on the ground --face turned towards the rising sun in the east. From the cradle to the grave, Rizal consecrated his life to fight for the human rights of our people.
Today, you will be certified as a walking intellectual. Tomorrow, you will be looking at our people with a fresh eye. I urge you to use your new eye to perceive the meaning and nuances of our continuing struggle to protect and push to new thresholds the human rights of our people.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT: As a political conservative, I am automatically suspicious of innovative reformulations of such basic principles as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--even when they are derived from the writings of such great civil libertarians as Jose W. Diokno and expounded upon by a supposedly learned Chief Justice. Words are among the most ancient artifacts of humanity, and though these from 1776 are of fairly recent vintage, there is a broader and deeper understanding of their meaning and significance, nuance and application, among the peoples of the whole world than the ones Justice Puno has chosen: "the right to life, the right to human dignity and the right to develop." In a very general sense, the truth of both formulations or summaries of what the "bedrock" of human rights consists of, is self-evident. But something very subtle disturbs me about Puno's explanation of them. Granted these are all "natural rights" of man, but Puno will be seen throughout this speech as ignoring the fact that for almost all of human history, even right up to the second half of the last century, and perhaps to this present day, MOST human beings have not been in effective possession of those rights we regard as "natural". Cavemen were in a very different position than civilized men, because it required the invention of democracy and constitutions ratified by the majority of its citizens to guarantee such freedoms as those life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and their deprivation from individuals only under the due process of the Law. Without constitutional democracy and the coercive force invested by it in the Law, we would again be cavemen subject to the arbitrary savagery and barbarism of others. In all of human history FREEDOM has had to be WON from slavery, oppression, exploitation and the greed and venality of other men and nations. It is not a matter of preservation alone, unless it is something already handed down from our forefathers and jealously guarded by all that have come before us. Contrary to Mr. Justice Puno's claim, these rights ARE alienable and HAVE BEEN taken away from us, they ARE violable and they have been "waylaid by the might of men" in the past. And when these rights do have to be defended and preserved, it is usually with our very lives and all of our treasure, with guns blazing and flags unfurled, because those who would deprive us of them are deadly serious themselves about their evil and lethal enterprise. In the above passage, I am utterly beguiled by Justice Puno's statement that "From the right to develop comes the right to education, and to live in an environment that allows all of our rights to flourish in full." The cynical might say that the Chief Justice is merely playing to the crowd of students a throwing a cheap sop at the red-hot issue of Global Warming. But it is a statement that also gives rise to a suspicion on my part that Mr. Justice Puno does not understand or recognize the difference between the equality of opportunity that democracy seeks to establish with constitutional guarantees, and the guarantee of results that totalitarians and communists have always promised in the Workers Paradise of their ideology. More than a right to its benefits, I believe that every citizen has the DUTY to develop himself to the best of his abilities and given the hand that is dealt him by fate or divinity. What happens to each of us cannot possibly be the responsibility of the State
The wisdom of hindsight informs us that human rights stem from three bedrock rights: the right to life, the right to human dignity, and the right to develop. From the right to life springs our right to own property, to health, to work, to establish a family. From the right to human dignity flows our right to equal treatment before the law, to freedom of thought, of conscience, of religion, of opinion, expression, and to be recognized as a person everywhere. From the right to develop comes the right to education, and to live in an environment that allows all of our rights to flourish in full.
There is no human without any right. The caveman and the civilized man have the same natural rights. Human rights inhere in all of us as human beings, as beings higher and different from other creatures. Since they are innate to man, since they are inherent to his being, these rights are inalienable and cannot be taken away; they are inviolable and cannot be waylaid by any might of man; their preservation is an obligation shared by the rulers and the ruled alike.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT: "With serendipity"? But it is a known fact that the Malolos Constitution of which Justice Puno speaks was a nearly verbatim copy of the Cuban Constitution of Jimaguayu, in its turn a copy of US and French documents. It was certainly an advance on Spanish colonial obscurantism, but Biak-na-bato is hardly a thing to be proud of, in my book, for treachery of the Filipino leaders that ensued and caused them next to be living it up in Hong Kong! There is nothing wrong with such plagiarism as Malolos was, in my opinion, but proper attribution ought to be given, rather than this obsession of Filipinos for greatness based on uniqueness.
Our history tells us that in this small patch of the earth, our forefathers pioneered in planting the seeds of human rights when it was far from being the fad and fashion of the day. On May 31, 1897, they established a republican government in Biak-na-Bato. It had a Constitution advance on political and civil rights. With serendipity, its authors Felix Ferrer and Isabelo Artacho embedded in it four articles which guaranteed freedom of the press, the right of association, freedom of religion, and freedom from deprivation of property or domicile except by virtue of judgment passed by a competent court of authority. They entrenched these radical ideals in 1898 when Aguinaldo established a revolutionary government and adopted the Malolos Constitution.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT:With regards to America, the undeniable facts are these. She invaded, conquered and subjugated the First Philippine Republic in 1898-99 which was already the first constitutional democracy in Asia (ahead of both Australia, 1900 and New Zealand, 1906). But why did America, in that FIRST IRAQ, establish here a democracy in her own image complete with elections, education, a purposively trained elite of business and civic leaders and a Legislature, even a Judiciary? Why did tens of thousands of young, idealistic American men and women, missionaries and civilians, come to these shores to give us the gift of the English language that ever was selfishly denied us by the Spanish? This is the question I've asked myself over the years: Why did America come to recreate herself in this Archipelago on the other side of the world? Ever pondering the minds of men like President William MacKinley, William Howard Taft, and Dean Conant Worcester, and examining the record of their alleged "Empire" here, I have arrived at the following theory which I humbly offer to the reader for his reaction--America came here and did the benevolent things she did out of a guilty conscience for the genocide of her own indios --a tragic process virtually complete by the end of the American Indian Wars of the 2nd half of the 19th Century. America came here, in part, to redeem faith in herself and her democratic traditions. It is my only explanation for such mysterious acts as that of the First Civilian Governor General, William Howard Taft, when, at the height of the Philippine American War in 1901, just months before the great Katipunan victory at the Battle of Balangiga, he established the Bureau of Public Instruction!
Then came our war against the United States. American President McKinley sent the First Philippine Commission headed by Jacob Gould Schurman to assess the Philippine situation. On February 2, 1900, the commission reported to the President that the Filipino wanted above all a “guarantee of those fundamental human rights which Americans hold to be the natural and inalienable birthright of the individual but which under Spanish domination in the Philippines had been shamefully invaded and ruthlessly trampled upon.” (emphasis supplied) In response to this, President McKinley, in his Instruction of April 7, 1990 to the Second Philippine Commission, provided an authorization and guide for the establishment of a civil government in the Philippines stated that “(u)pon every division and branch of the government of the Philippines. . . must be imposed these inviolable rules…” The “inviolable rules” included, among others, that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
The “inviolable rules” of the Instruction were re-enacted almost exactly in the Philippine Bill of 1902, in the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 or the Jones Law, and in the 1935 Constitution.
The 1935 Bill of Rights was carried into the 1973 Constitution with a few changes, and finally in the 1987 Constitution. As an aftermath of the martial law regime of the Marcos government, the 1987 Constitution, enshrined a Bill of Rights which more jealously safeguards the people’s fundamental liberties. In clear and unmistakable language, the Constitutional proclaimed as a state policy that “(t)he state values the dignity of very human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” In addition, it has a separate Article on Social Justice and Human Rights, under which, the Commission on Human Rights was created.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT:How easy it is to forget or ignore the historic fact of that War--that SIXTY MILLION human beings died to defend freedom and democracy from the global threat of the Axis of Evil then in German Nazism, Italian Fascism and Japanese Militarism, which came so close to conquering the world. As for the UN Charter, its piety has certainly not prevented the scourge of war nor the deprivation of human rights. International Communism saw its zenith and nadir during this period, yet something of it survives in vital form in Europe, in the United Nations and even in the Philippines which still has an active Maoist insurgency seeking to overthrow the government.
The horrors of the World Wars warn us that the protection of human rights is a duty we owe to generations to come. In 1945, the peoples of the United Nations (UN), declared in the Preamble of the UN Charter that their primary end was the reaffirmation of “faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,” in order “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”
The promotion of human rights is also the indispensable predicate of peace and progress. For this reason, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its two implementing covenants are the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These instruments not only denounced nazism and fascism, but also recognized that the “security of individual rights, like the security of national rights, was a necessary requisite to a peaceful and stable world order.”
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT:These are the words of an armchair spectator of world events! During the time that Mr. Justice Puno "awaited with bated breath the dawn of universal peace and order" at the end of the Cold War, the United Nations fought the only officially sanctioned war in its entire history (aside from the Korean War of the 1950s which only happened because the Soviet Ambassador was taking a leak!). That 1990 war was the First Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein after he invaded Kuwait. It was also in the 1990s that Iraqi agents Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Youssef linked up with Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah in none other than the Philippines to begin developing the tactics that were used in the 9/11 attack, in the bombing of airliners and other means of mass transportation. And it was on Rizal Day, December 30, 2000, nine months before 9/11, that Al Qaeda launched a major attack on the Philippines when the notorious Indonesian terrorist, Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi bombed the LRT in Manila, killing dozens of innocent men, women and children with a deadly cell-phone activated explosive. It was also throughout the 1990s that the MNLF, the MILF, the Abu Sayyaf and the New People's Army launched hundreds of attacks on military and civilian alike and carried out their still-ongoing activities to overthrow the government and supplant our democracy with their own concepts of "human rights."
The interesting question is what has happened to human rights in this new millennium? The end of the Cold War ended the bipolar world starring the West led by the United States and the East led by Russia. The end result of that clash of civilization is the emergence of a unipolar world dominated by democracy as the political ideology and the triumph of capitalism as the bible of economics. With communism out in the cold, the world awaited with bated breath the dawn of universal peace and order. But when peace appeared to be within mankind’s grasp, 9/11 shattered to smithereens its illusion. 9/11 gave birth to new realities on ground with grave repercussions on the human rights situation in the world, especially the most vulnerable sector, the poor who are many, the many yet the most impotent.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT: The United States is not the "worst victim of terrorism" as Mr. Justice Puno claims, even compared to the Philippines, which has suffered poverty and stunted development from decades of Islamist and communist terror--insurgencies that have prevented the full bloom of its tourism potential, its industrial, agricultural and technological development. And I must say, Mr. Puno displays an embarrassing ignorance of the historic events that followed upon the heels of 9/11, when the most extraordinary alliance of nations formed around America in order to destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. I challenge the good Chief Justice to declare as mindless the outstanding achievements that humanity has made in THAT little patch of earth, where men, women and children have been freed at last, at least in part, from the enshrouding bourqa of fundamentalist, theocratic Islam, from the dictatorship of the Taliban. Even though that work is far from complete, even though Iraq is a mess, who would not chafe at Mr. Justice Puno's own mindless parlance?
On the universal level, 9/11 altered the face of international law. As the worst victim of terrorism, the United States led the fight to excise and exorcise terrorism from the face of the earth. It pursued a strategy characterized by a bruising aggressiveness that raised the eyebrows of legal observers. The leader country of democracy did not wait for the United Nations to act but immediately sought to search and destroy terrorists withersoever they may be found.
J. Puno (continues):In less polite parlance, the search and destroy strategy gave little respect to the sovereignty of states and violated their traditional borders. The strategy which is keyed on military stealth and might had trampling effects on the basic liberties of suspected terrorists for laws are silent when the guns of war do the talking. The war on terrorism has inevitable spilled over effects on human rights all over the world, especially in countries suspected as being used as havens of terrorists. One visible result of the scramble to end terrorism is to take legal shortcuts and legal shortcuts always shrink the scope of human rights.CAVEAT:In less polite parlance, Mr. Chief Justice, you bet your sorry ass that traditional borders are being violated--for what borders, traditional or not have the terrorists respected? They have no cities of their own, no populations to defend, no capitals to secure, yet they threaten all of our cities, all of our populations, all of our civilization. As Mohammed el Baradei said upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize last year, there is no greater threat to humanity today than nuclear terrorism from organizations like Al Qaeda and those nations and individuals who would supply them with the means to Armageddon.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT: Coming from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, I find this description of the anti-insurgency campaign in the Philippines to be entirely upside down. Is that what the NPAs are doing with their organized criminal activities of extortion, blackmail, kidnapping, murder and illegal collections of "revolutionary taxes" and permits to campaign? They are retaliating against their opponents? It almost sounds like Mr. Justice Puno thinks the NPA is justified in its activities! Read on to see how it isn't just "sounds like" with this particular apologist for terrorist insanity.
These shortcuts have scarred the landscape of rights in the Philippines. In March 2006, Amnesty International issued a public statement expressing grave concern over reports of an ongoing pattern of political killings of members of legal leftist organizations in various provinces in the country. It also stated that in the wider context of continuing nationwide counter-insurgency operations against the New People’s Army (denounced as terrorists) periodic human rights violation, including arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions and torture, continue to be reported. Aside from them, community activists, church workers, lawyers, journalists and others perceived as sympathetic to the communist movement suffered violation of their human rights. Not to be outdone, the NPAs are also reported to have lawlessly retaliated against their opponents.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT: Perhaps the UN Human Rights Council and all those UN rapporteur-schampporteurs would like to investigate how those seven innocent heads heads came to be separated from their seven innocent bodies! And while they are at, Mr. Justice Puno can ponder on the real meaning of terrorism when his nose isn't stuck in the UN's humanitarian gobbledygook lawbooks that Jose Maria Sison loves to stand upon as a global soapbox in the hallowed halls of Geneva. Perhaps we should add for their examination and erudite perorations the remains of the hundreds of victims of the CPP NPA's paranoid purges in the 80s and 90s.
The escalation of extra judicial killings in the Philippines has attracted the harsh eye of advocates of human rights. The UN Commission on Rights has sent Prof. Alston to look at the Philippine human rights situation. Some members of the International Parliamentary Union are in town for the same purpose. Their initial findings are not complementing to our Constitutional commitment to protect human rights.
J. Puno (continues):As young graduates, you may be asking yourself the relevance of these ongoing violations of human rights to your life, especially as you embark on your journey to improve the economic aspects of your life. I submit that the fight against terrorism and the battle to preserve human rights have high impact on the right of young people to live with dignity. One of its ill-effects is the massive displacement of young people in areas where the fight against terrorism tramples on human rights. These young people are compelled to migrate to seek greener pastures in hostile environments and, worse where they find their human rights subjected to new abuses with near impunity. Figures show that this problem of displacement will get worse in the coming years because of the galloping growth of the youth population. The United Nations predict that some 138 countries will have growing “youth bulge”; its calamitous consequence is that youth unemployment will skyrocket to record levels with the highest rate in the Middle East and North Africa. The UN findings further reveal that at least 60 million people aged 15-20 will not be able to find work and twice as many, about 130M, cannot lift their families out of poverty. It will not take a prophet to predict that countries that cannot give decent life to their young people will serve as incubators of extremism that may end up in terrorism.CAVEAT: This appears to be Mr. Justice Puno's feeble argument against the OFW phenomenon, his imitation of Conrado de Quiros' famous accusation that OFWs are the "toilet bowl cleaners" of the world traitorously and selfishly leaving the homeland for greener pastures. Well, thirteen billion dollars a year repatriated by the OFWs has done far more to lift the Philippines out of UN-declared poverty than any of their illogical arguments ever will.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT:I think it is only Justice Puno, with his nose safely in some dusty lawbook, who would find "the knee jerk reaction to extirpate terrorism" more "discomforting" than terrorism itself. Hey, tell that to those guys that just got decapitated in Sulu by the Abu Sayyaf's beheading-jerks, or those good folks whose legs were blown off their knees by the NPA's remote controlled land mines.
And this leads me to the proposition that we need to give a broader, innovative view on our efforts to protect the human rights of our people which should consider our distinct social, economic and political context. Defying the cult of comformity and comfort, I submit that this view should consider the following facts and factors:
One. Terrorism is just one means of violating our human rights, especially our right to life itself, and should not consume our entire attention. Often, terrorism attracts universal attention because of its cinematic impact – the shocking violence, the bravado of the villains, the heroism of the victims’ rescuers, the sickening loss of lives and property and the dominance of the animal in man. Terrorism is terrible enough but the mindless, knee jerk reaction to extirpate the evil is more discomforting. The quickie solution is to unfurl the flag, sing the national anthem and issue the high pitched call to arms for the military and the police to use their weapons of destruction under the theme victory at all cost. To put constitutional cosmetics to the military-police muscular efforts, lawmakers usually enact laws using security of the state to justify the dimunition of human rights by allowing arrests without warrants; surveillance of suspects; interception and recording of communications; seizure or freezing of bank deposits, assets and records of suspects. They also redefine terrorism as a crime against humanity and the redefinition is broadly drawn to constrict and shrink further the zone of individual rights. If there is any lesson that we can derive from the history of human rights, it is none other than these rights cannot be obliterated by bombs but neither can they be preserved by bullets alone. Terrorism is a military-police problem but its ultimate solution lies beyond the guns of our armed forces.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT: Non military aspects of the fight against terrorism? But I thought it was mindless knee jerk reaction to pass anti-terror laws that allow surveillance of suspects, interception and recording of their communications, seizure of their bank deposits, assets and records? And where in the anti-terror law is a warrantless arrest allowed that is not already justified
Two. In fighting terrorism, let us not overlook the non-military aspects of our national security and their impact on human rights. The scholar Michael Renver hits the bulleye with the following analysis:
xxx terrorism is only symptomatic of a far broader set of deep concerns that have produced a new age of anxiety. Acts of terror and the dangerous reactions to them are like exclamation marks in a toxic brew of profound socioeconomic, environmental, and political pressures forces that together create a tumultuous and less stable world. Among them are endemic poverty, convulsive economic transitions that cause growing inequality and high unemployment, international crime, the spread of deadly armaments, large-scale population movements, recurring natural disasters, ecosystem breakdown, new and resurgent communicable diseases, and rising competition over land and other natural resources, particularly oil. These “problems without passports” are likely to worsen in the years ahead. xxx They cannot be resolved by raising military expenditures or dispatching troops. Nor can they be contained by sealing borders or maintaining the status quo in a highly unequal world.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT: We arrive at last at the argument that every paleoliberal defender of a permanent protest culture or long-running insurgency reaches for when pandering to the crowd--the argument from root causes like poverty and hunger. It is surprising to find it used so clumsily by none other than a Chief Justice. It's more exciting and stimulating to get it from one of the usual pundits who are better at creative writing and published melodrama.
Today and yesterday’s broadsheets bannered the news about the stranglehold of poverty in the Philippines. The World Bank says that about 15M or 19% of Filipinos survive on less than $1 a day. Our National Anti Poverty Commission disputes the figures and claim that only 10.5 M Filipinos live on $1 a day. To the unsophisticated in the esoterics of economics, this is a distinction without difference for the cruel fact is that poverty stalks this land of plenty and hunger is still the best food seasoning of its people. In poor countries, it is poverty that truly terrorizes people for they are terrorized by the thought that they will die because of empty stomachs and not that they will lose their lives due to some invisible suicide bombers. In poor countries, it is also poverty that renders the poor vulnerable to violation of their rights, for the poor will not vindicate their rights in a justice system that moves in slow motion and whose wheels have to be greased with money. And would any dare to doubt, that our national security and our human rights are more threatened by the fear that we face an environmental collapse if we do not take immediate steps to save our seas and our forests from the despoliation to satisfy the economic greed of the few. Again, the realities may be uncomfortable but let the statistics talk and they tell us that in year 2000 for example, 300,000 people all over the world died due to violence in armed conflicts but as many people die each and every month because of contaminated water or lack of adequate sanitation.
J. Puno (continues):CAVEAT:More than a corrupt government, the threat to national security and human rights comes from a supine and anaesthetized citizenry that refuses to make the sacrifices and take responsibility for that security. It is natural and expected of human beings that they should love comfort and shirk the ugly necessities such as war and bloodshed to defend those freedoms and arrangements that even Justice Puno here pays obeisance.
Three. The threats to our national security and human rights will be aggravated if we have a state, weakened internally by a government hobbled by corruption, struggling with credibility, battling the endless insurgence of the left and the right; and, by a state weakened externally by pressure exerted by creditor countries, by countries where our trade comes from, by countries that supply our military and police armaments. A weak state cannot fully protect the rights of its citizens within its borders just as a state without economic independence cannot protect the rights of its citizens who are abroad from the exploitation of more powerful countries.
Fourth and lastly, the business of safeguarding our national security, the obligation of protecting human rights is a burden shared by all of us. It is not only the military that should tackle our problem of security for it is our security that is at stake, not their security. Security interest is a collective interest where everybody has a significant stake. In the same vein, the rich and the powerful should not consider the protection of the rights of the poor and the powerless as peripheral problems just because for the moment their own rights are unthreatened. Sooner or later, they will find that they who default in protecting the rights of the many will end up without rights like the many. The apathy of those who can make a difference is the reason why violations of human rights continue to prosper. The worst enemy of human rights is not its non believers but the fence sitters who will not lift a finger despite their violations. “If we have learned anything from September 11” wrote New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman, “it is that if you don’t visit a bad neighborhood, it will visit you.”
Our work of protecting human rights is not yet finished. With the incursions and threats of incursion to our human rights at this crucial moment in our history, the clarion call to each one of us is to consecrate our lives to the great cause of upholding our human rights. When Rizal turned his face towards the rising sun, he saw hope in a heroic people carrying on the fight. Let us not allow the shadow of ignorance, indifference or indolence eclipse this hope so that we may continue to see a tomorrow begin in the East.
J. Puno (continues):The Leftist front organization, Kabataan party-list, gave the Chief Justice a mocha cake in appreciation for his remarks--which some newspaper saw fit to print in the form of a free campaign publicity gimmick. Anything for the Cause, wot?
Thank you and again, congratulations.
* Delivered on April 18, 2007 on the occasion of the conferment of the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of the East.
 Zaide and Zaide, “Martyrdom at Bagumbayan” in Jose Rizal: Works and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist and National Hero (1994).
 Diokno, J. A Nation for Our Children (1987), pp. 4-5.
 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.