Remember the “Three Furies” of the Aquino administration? It was the appellation given to a trio of women—then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and then Commission on Audit Chair Grace Pulido Tan. As heads of their agencies, they were tasked to seek out the corrupt in the administration, and they went about it like, well, like the three furies of Greek mythology. Actually, Kim Henares should be there, too, but then there would have been four—and, alas, that didn’t fit into the myth.
President Elpidio Quirino once gave this sound and earthy advice: “So conduct yourself in public as well as in private life that you can always look into any man’s eyes and tell him to go to hell.” Not many people and certainly not many politicians can claim to have passed the Quirino test. But if anyone can pass, the Three Furies come closest. They are beholden to no one.
What has happened to these Furies? Conchita Carpio Morales won the Ramon Magsaysay Award this year, and she is continuing on her fearless path. Grace Pulido Tan was almost appointed to the Supreme Court, where she would have made an excellent contribution, but that path was taken from her at literally the last minute (I guess Furies don’t have the least knowledge of anything other than the straight path). And we all know what kind of crap Leila de Lima is taking in her current role as senator. But she, too, will overcome.
Are there any Furies-in-waiting in the current administration? Of course, there is Vice President Leni Robredo who is a straight-shooter. She has one advantage over her predecessor Furies. She makes much use of velvet gloves. Although she has made her stand on extrajudicial killings quite clear, she looks like she is getting used to the terrain first before she takes them off. Good planning.
After her, of the five women in the Cabinet—Education’s Liling Briones, Tourism’s Wanda Tulfo Teo, Health’s Paulyn Ubial, Environment’s Gina Lopez, and Social Welfare’s Judy Taguiwalo—two (Briones and Lopez) have shown their potential as women of commitment and of principle. The others have yet to show the stuff they are made of, but it’s early days yet. One can be optimistic.
There is another woman, though, not an appointee of President Duterte, who has struck me as being in the same mold as the Three Furies. Ironically, she is in the Commission on Human Rights, an agency not exactly in the good graces of the President, but she is showing all the grit and determination of the Furies just the same. Keep an eye on her, Reader. Her name is Karen Gomez Dumpit.
She first caught my eye because it is she who is most often sent by the CHR (Chito Gascon, chair) to represent it. She knows human rights, she speaks with sincerity, and she can take on anyone who tries to denigrate human rights as the last bastion of the crooked or the criminal. What’s more, she wins. This doesn’t give her any points with Mr. Duterte, but someday he is going to thank her for her service.
First, she explains that every human being has human rights. They are inherent in us, and are what distinguishes us from other species. That these are provided in the Constitution doesn’t mean that it is the Constitution that gives these to us: The important point she makes is that these are universal.
The second point she makes is that the CHR is not here to prevent justice from being meted out, or to prevent the government/police/military from carrying out their duties. But abuses are generally (not always) committed by them because they have the authority to carry arms, and this authority can indeed be abused, to the detriment of the people that they are committed to serve. In other words, who protects us from our protectors?
So that’s why it seems the CHR is always raining on the parade of our protectors. There is a right way to do things (the rule of law), and there is a wrong way to do things (the rule of the jungle).
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Because if the rule of the jungle triumphs, we the people, who have neither the arms nor the gold, will be wiped out. Wasn’t that what happened under martial law, by the way?
I wonder why President Duterte doesn’t see it that way. He has come to the conclusion that all drug users have become drug pushers, and so they have automatically given up their human rights, because they have killed, raped, sodomized—name it, they’ve done it. So they merit none of our sympathy.
That reasoning includes leaps of logic that are breathtaking. When were they convicted of rape, or murder? Why were they not even arrested? Or is the penalty for drug using—or, for that matter, drug pushing—death? Where is the law? And if you say the police are in cahoots, and the judges are in cahoots, then you are solving a problem by creating even more monstrous problems.
That’s why Karen Dumpit, as a human rights commissioner, needs to get ready for the same kind of abuse that is being heaped on Leila de Lima, her predecessor in the CHR, who dared to investigate the Davao Death Squad. And even now, the noose is tightening on the CHR. For 2017, it asked for a budget of over P700 million, but it was allotted only P490 million by the budget department. Now Congress is looking at ways to cut that allocation some more. What will the CHR use for its investigations, considering the enormous spike in extrajudicial killings? We the people must help the CHR, and Karen Dumpit.