By Roy Mabasa
Filipino human rights defender Rosemarie Trajano was honored by two major European countries as one of the 15 recipients of the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law award in the world.
Trajano, who is secretary general of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), was jointly nominated by the German and French embassies in the Philippines for her outstanding work, which brings together about 50 organizations nationwide advocating for all human rights.
The Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law award pays tribute to men and women who work towards defending human rights around the world and whose actions deserved support and recognition. It serves as a symbol of France and Germany’s shared values and commitments to protecting human rights for all.
“The complexity of our situation now has put HRDs (human rights defenders) in greater peril, not only from actual physical harm but also from psychological stress from social media trolls and fanatics of the (Duterte) administration,” Trajano said at the awarding ceremony held the other night in Makati City.
A nurse by profession, Trajano has more than 30 years of experience in working to engage civil society in the Philippines in defense and protection of human rights in all its forms from gender equality to health, from workers’ rights to indigenous people’s rights, among others.
In an emotional speech, Trajano shared her award with other HRDs who were killed like retired priest Fr. Marcelito (Tito) Paez from Nueva Ecija, Datu Victor Danyan of South Cotabato, and Gloria Capitan, a simple grandmother and anti-coal activist in Bataan, who was shot in front of her grandchildren on the first day of the Duterte administration.
“I am honored to be the face, the symbol of Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines. I am but a mere representation of numerous others who have sacrificed their lives and limb in our relentless struggle for human rights and the rule of law,” she said.
Trajano noted that in September 2016, she received information that her name was reportedly in the “persons of interest” list of the Philippine National Police, and in the “watch list” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), together with four other HRD leaders of prominent organizations.
In an apparent reaction on the administration’s ‘war on drugs’ campaign and the recent Presidential proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorists, Trajano expressed concern over the danger of HRDs being accused of involvement in drugs or terrorism to weaken their resolve and to justify violations of their rights
“Perhaps, those of us who are more visible at the national levels are safer, but we continuously worry and grieve for those HRDs who are unknown, who are in the communities fighting for our rights,” she said.
During the presentation of the award, French Ambassador Nicolas Galey noted that the life of a human rights defender in the Philippines “can be difficult, and oftentimes very dangerous,” citing recent events in Central Luzon, Oriental Mindoro, and Negros Occidental.
“However, your work, your sacrifices, and your principles will persist through time and can create the spark that will serve as an inspiration for others,” Galey said before handing over the award to Trajano.
The French envoy added that although France, Germany and most of Europe may not share a common geography or history with the Philippines, “what binds us together is our common commitment to the promotion and defense of the democratic and universal values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Galey thanked Trajano for her courageous work and assured her that France and Germany will always support efforts to protect human rights and the rule of law.
For his part, German Ambassador Gordon Kricke stressed that the promotion and the protection of human rights worldwide is a paramount objective of German and French foreign policies.
Drawing from lessons in history, Germany enshrines the inviolability and inalienability of human dignity and human rights under its constitution. The universality of human rights is central to EU foreign policy and the United Nations through which the Universal Human Rights Declaration of 1948 was instituted.
Trajano is one of the fifteen awardees selected by the Franco-German Council of Ministers from a list of nominees put forward by the French and German embassies all over the world. The awardees were announced on 9 December 2017 in commemoration of the International Human Rights Defenders Day.
The medal award given to Trajano and the other recipients was designed by world-renown German artist, Anna Martha Napp.