Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Corruption, the murkiest violation of human rights

THE Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948 may be the greatest thing that happened to humanity since the Neanderthals.

Pope John Paul II in his 1979 address to the 34th General Assembly of the United Nations describes it best, as “a true milestone on the path of humanity’s moral progress,” and later at the 50th General Assembly in 1995, as something that “remains one of the highest expressions of human conscience of our time.”

This has been especially true and celebrated in many countries, especially those that are more mature in governance and statesmanship. But to others that have been characterized by bad politics and graft-laden economies, and, worse, extra-judicial killings and disappearances, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains a piece of paper put to good use only in rhetorics.

“Shame” is the word that Jaro Archbishop and CBCP president Angel Lagdameo used. It “gives us a feeling of shame and embarrassment because of the enumerable human rights violation that have remained unexamined, unexplained and unresolved or covered up by events,” so says his message on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“We are ashamed,” he adds, “and we hope it is not completely true, that our country is said to be the most corrupt in Asia and the second most corrupt in the world. This is because of human rights violations in various degrees. Does this call for a celebration?”

With hundreds of documented extra-judicial or political killings and disappearances that happened in the country in just a few years, calling for a celebration is a tongue-in-check. And yet, though disputable this is indeed, these hundreds of killings seem eclipsed by the most vicious of all human rights violations—the massive and systemic corruption.

When citizens are robbed of barest opportunities and a future with dignity, then corruption becomes murkiest. One may even prefer to be disappeared rather than stripped or robbed or both.

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