‘Don’t give up,’ US VP Harris advises rights activists
MANILA, Philippines – Against the backdrop of protests staged by various groups to denounce her visit, US Vice President Kamala Harris told rights activists on Monday: “Don’t give up.”
Harris was asked about her advice to select rights activists whom she had spoken to before her town hall discussion at Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City.
“There is so much about the fight for human rights that requires us to remember that we are not alone, because it requires movements. It requires working against systems that have been designed in many situations to neglect, if not, be more affirmative in overlooking or even attacking human rights,” she said.
Harris underscored her belief that the fight to uphold human rights would have to begin with recognizing where violations exist.
“That means seeing the worst of human behaviors. That means understanding and seeing what suffering looks like. What pain looks like. What unfairness looks like. And for someone and anyone who has a level of empathy and understanding about that, it requires a great level of endurance to stick with it. If you care about it and you understand what it means, I start with saying, ‘You are not alone and it matters,’” she said.
Harris pointed out the importance of remembering that rights are universal and inalienable at their core.
“I think it’s important to start from a perspective of knowing, not just believing, but knowing you are born with rights. You are born with these rights. You’re not asking someone to do you the favor through the benevolence of their existence to grant you these rights,” she said.
Harris said rights could not be measured and defined by cultures and nations but by universal principles.
“The universal principles that should be grounded in an understanding of equality and grounded in an understanding of the freedom individuals should be able to have as a right to exercise certain decisions about their lives,” she said.
Her visit to the country – significant as the highest-ranking US official to have so far visited the Philippines under the Marcos administration – was met with protests in Manila joined by various progressive groups like Gabriela and the International League of People’s Struggle.
KAMALA NOT WELCOME!
ILPS Philippines joined today’s protest in time for US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the country this November 20-22.
US TROOPS OUT NOW!
DOWN WITH US IMPERIALISM!
— International League of Peoples' Struggle (@ILPS_Official) November 21, 2022
One area of concern that they had earlier raised was the Visiting Forces Agreement and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, both of which bind the Philippine military with the US.
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