Presidential candidates urged to present human rights platform

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"A lot of people still don't have enough to eat, jobs, or access to basic health," Ritz Santos, chairperson of Amnesty International Philippines said.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Advocates of people's rights are making sure their cause will be an election issue for candidates.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International Philippines said on Wednesday (February 24) that Filipinos should choose leaders who will prioritize human rights.

"Kailangan maging priority ang human rights dahil araw-araw natin itong dapat na-e-enjoy. At hangga't hindi natin na-e-enjoy ang kalayaan sa takot, kalayaan sa maayos at disenteng pamumuhay, ito ay dapat nating singilin sa ating mga leader," Ritz Santos, chairperson of Amnesty International Philippines said.

[Translation: "Human rights must be a priority as we're supposed to be enjoying it everyday. Until we cannot enjoy our freedom from fear, freedom to have a decent and safe life, we must clamor for it from our leaders."]

Human rights violations come in many forms, and Amnesty International said poverty remains the most crucial human rights issue in the Philippines.

Related: Is the Philippines among the worst countries for human rights?

"Marami pa rin hindi nakakakain nang sapat, maraming walang trabaho, madami pa din ang walang access to basic health," Santos said.

[Translation: "A lot of people still don't have enough to eat, jobs, or access to basic health."]

The group also said that human rights violations caused by politics is a continuing problem, among them the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

It added that many cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances remain unresolved.

Less than three months before the elections, presidential bets have yet to present a clear human rights platform. Amnesty International is urging these candidates to make a firm commitment to promote human rights.

Related: Amnesty Int'l challenges presidential aspirants on human rights issues

Stance of presidentiables

In a statement to Amnesty International, presidential candidate Jejomar Binay is promising to promote human rights and to go after those who violate the law.

"As a human rights lawyer and advocate from his youth, Vice President Binay pledges his strong commitment towards ensuring and promoting universal human rights for all. He also vows to render accountable any party who would violate constitutional and international human rights commitments and obligations," Binay's camp said.

Another candidate, Miriam Defensor-Santiago vows to make Filipinos feel safer. She wants better implementation of the Anti-Torture Law, and a review of the Witness Protection Program.

"My administration will improve the implementation of the Anti-Torture Law and the Anti-Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance Act. I take into account Amnesty International's suggestion that a national quick response hotline be introduced for enforced disappearances and torture. We will review the Witness Protection Program and complement it with the Whistleblowers' Protection Act," Santiago said.

Amnesty International is waiting for the responses of Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe and Manuel Roxas II regarding their human rights protection agenda.

The group is also hoping that succeeding presidential debates will include the protection of human rights.

Meanwhile, Malacañang said it is withholding comment until it reads the Amnesty International report.