Q & A with Risa Hontiveros
Philippine Consulate Sydney
22 March 2017
Questioner: Mr Rod Dingle
Welcome to Sydney. Thank you for meeting us. Actually I’m here to represent the Filipino-Australian Movement for Empowerment. Our advocacy is very simple because Filipino habitation in Australia has been for over 50 years and at one stage we only had one Filipino in government, a Local Council. Since last year, we now have seven. So we aim to push more Filipinos to run for public office. But anyway, my question is not about politics, my question is more about the international impression that is being thrown out in the international community. Recently, the European Union had voiced concerns about things going on back in the Philippines. How can we as members of the international community assure the international community that all is well in the Philippines?
Answer by RH:
Thank you sir Rod. I think, I think, sorry, I think the best assurance and the best way that we can assure our fellow citizens of the world, especially, kayo po, you are Filipinos living abroad and they have more direct access to you for example here in Australia than to us who live in the Philippines.
I suppose the best way that you can reassure them either that things are well or that we are constantly trying to improve the situation, we never give up that hope and that dedication to continually improve our situation as a people is first of all just to show them and I’m sure you’re already a witness to that, that we just like any other people, we value common human values of the worth and the dignity of every person, mutual respect for each other, that is the effort to continually address not just political but also economic and social means and problems of Filipinos wherever we are and in whatever country we make our new home. I’m sure it’s very evident to them gaano tayo kasipag at katas ang work ethic, how we contribute continually to the economy back home but to our second homes, our new countries, by our very high work ethic and the productivity that we contribute to whatever sector or industry we may place ourselves in in those countries.
I know also that one way that the international community keeps picking ups signals from us that we are continually working on our problems is, for example, just the high and sustained volunteerism, bayanihan that we always show every ordinary day and even under the worst circumstances like after Yolanda, or HaiYan, that we showed how, no matter how challenging changing conditions are in the whole planet, ang mga Pinoy when, when the need is even greater, we lean back together to help each other. So these are some of the ways I think that we can reassure or we can, we can tell other peoples that regardless of our political, economic and social challenges, that we never let go of trying to find the best possible solutions. Even when the conversation becomes difficult, that we’re always trying to debate with each other if we need to in a mutually respectful manner. So I don’t think they can do any better than that. And if we can do that and we can do that more and more, as time goes by, then they will realize again, as they realized in the past that we are a people just like them.
Consul-Gen: Thank you. Ah…
Lotti: May I ask a question as a follow up to that?
Consul-Gen: ok yes.
Lotti: Yes, thank you. My name is Lualhati.
With all due respect, Senator, I don’t believe that the question was answered adequately, because we all know that we are already doing that. All Filipinos are are already doing that, the bayanihan, the volunteerism and we’re trying our best here in the international community to show what Filipinos are like, and how hardworking we are and how excellent we are as a people. But, no matter how hard we do that, there are people, especially from your party, in fact, yourself,
RH: I’m Akbayan.
Lotti: Well, yes from your party and the Liberal Party, but not long ago, very recently in fact, you were demanding that the President allow the UN to come into the Philippines and investigate. Where is the honor in that? How can we be honorable when we malign our own community, our own people, in suggesting that there are crimes going on done by the government, against its own people. Parang hindi fair na kami nagpapakahirap na baguhin ang imahe ng mga Pilipino at ng Pilipinas sa international community and yet paulit-ulit na naririnig naming sa inyong mga politicians an dina-down niyo ang sarili niyong bansa. Naapektuhan kami, naapektuhan ang mga OFWs. We are around the world and we all have to put up with that and we all have to, we’re at the forefront in other words, nasa frontier kami, nasa harapan kami, kami yung nasa trenches na humaharap sa mga foreigners na nakikita ang sinasabi ng mga katulad ninyo na senators. You hold office okay? So people will listen to you whether we like it or not. So, paano naming mababago ang imahe, kung paulit ulit na sinisira ng kapwa naming Pilipino?
RH: Salamat Miss Lualhati.
Kung basahin niyo po ulit yung statement ko, hindi ako nag-demand kay Presidente. Nag-urge. And it was in response dun sa comment kay VP Leni na, ano, na-mislead ang UN or ibang international observers lalo sa mula sa perspectives
Lotti: They were.
RH: ng human rights. Well that is ah, that is arguable, yun yung isang pinagdi-diskursohan natin these days.
Lotti: Come on!
RH: Oh well let’s just agree to disagree, I can respect your opinion about that. So ang, ang salita which I chose very deliberately, because, was to urge, to urge the government. And those deaths, those dead kababayan of ours, they are by Philippine national police’s own statistics. Ah, more than half of them recorded as kill during police anti-drug operation and
Lotti: That’s not what the stats say, though.
RH: Yes, yes, that’s what the PNP’s statistics show. And uhm, about three, uh, three-fifths of the stats at any one time from the PNP, deaths due to anti-drug operations, and about two-fifths of those, what they call DUI, deaths under investigation, including those attributed to vigilante groups. So uh, and so as citizens, and I know because I’m a PNP widow, as citizens, even those deaths under investigations which was attributed to vigilante groups who take advantage of government’s war on drugs to commit their killings and sweep them under the cover of the anti-drug war, even those DUI which is what the PNP also calls them, uh, people look to the PNP at least to investigate, so that the families left behind, the survivors can seek justice, if they believe that their family member was wrongfully killed. So when the comment was these international groups were misled which is arguable, therefore I said then if that is what the government believes, then I urge them to invite those groups to conduct their investigation. Any those groups cannot come in unless invited by government.
Lotti: Thank God for that!
RH: (Laughs) Well, so that was the spirit of my statement urging the government. And it is, with all due respect also, it’s not paninira. It’s an attempt as a legislator, we are a separate and co-equal branch of government, to call the attention of the Executive, or at times, of the Judiciary, to when we think that the Executive is not implementing a law properly, or the Judiciary is misinterpreting it on constitutional grounds, and the other branches do that to us also, the judiciary checks us other two, the executive checks us other two and so on and so forth. And so, as a member of a separate and co-equal branch of government when I see something that may need correction or a gap that may need filling, it’s my duty, it’s my work for which I was elected to work in the Senate, it’s my mandate, meaning, it’s an order to me from the voters that I should point it out. And I’d like to say that I really take pains that when I point something out, I don’t leave it at that. I try to study the issue further and propose an alternative. That’s why there are also, as I was discussing with Sir Rado earlier, some proposals I’m making in terms of how to more effectively and cost-efficiently address our problem with illegal drugs, how to support the PNP in its security centre reforms process. So that’s what I can say, that uh, I’m trying to do my job as a legislator, uh and as a Filipino.
Lotti: Did you call for the Tokhang to stop?
RH: Yes, I did, during...
Consul-Gen: Ah, Lualhati there are others raising their hand
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