When Human Rights is Inhuman

Are we not humans, too? Are we not entitled to rights as well?

My late grandfather left an inheritance to his five children, Sombrero Island, fully planted with coconut trees. Grandfather and his children planted the coconut trees more than 50 years ago. He used to fish in the waters surrounding the island. He was drawn to its beautiful, powdery, white sand beaches, huge trees, and clear, blue water.

At first, he had no idea the island was declared as a bird sanctuary by the late President Marcos. Thus, possession of the island was illegal. When authorities found out that he had built a house in the island and has started to cut trees, he was arrested and jailed. He did get out of jail and got a homestead grant over the island. The family used to own the whole island, but due to some land-grabbing issues, the family now owns barely 6 hectares of it.

When my grandfather was still alive, he was such a kind man that he allowed so many people to live in the island temporarily. As the years passed, the few settlers grew to hundreds of families and now they are claiming ownership of the island. My Lolo went to court to take back his island. He won the cases having proven his rightful possession and ownership. The family talked to the people and asked them to vacate the island peacefully. The family even provided for a relocation area to be awarded free and titled in the name of anyone who voluntarily vacates the island. Aside from the relocation area, some financial assistance was also in hand to help during the transition period. But the people were so stubborn and they were asking for more.

Then came the demolition team. The island was cleared. Fences were put up. I thought, fencing an island is ridiculous. After a few months, the people came back. This time they built their houses outside the fence and in the foreshore areas. True, no one can own the foreshore areas because it is public domain by law. However, the law never provided that foreshore areas be used for residential purposes. Lolo went to court again. The court ordered that the unlawful settlers be arrested and jailed until they comply with the previous order of the court to vacate the island.

Here comes the human rights groups defending the unlawful settlers. The matter was in the news and we looked like some greedy, landowners with no soul whatsoever. The issue of lawful possession and ownership was long settled but why do they keep on insisting that my family has no rights over the island? Why can’t they just obey the lawful orders of the court? Why are they insisting on their rights without considering our rights? Their right is baseless anyway!

I have great respect for human rights. Human rights must not be used to defeat the very purposes of the law which it seeks to uphold. I believe in human rights, but to use human rights to get ahead of your fellow human beings -that is not human rights.

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