YES Programs



Advocating for Human Rights in the Philippines

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By Maria Ana Espinosa, YES 2005-06, Philippines hosted with AFS in Indiana

In 2005-06, I was a YES program high school student in South Bend, Indiana. Taking part in this exchange program had a strong influence on my interests after the program and I aimed to become a human rights lawyer. I took up a BS in Economics with a minor in Political Science in the University of the Philippines-Diliman to deepen my knowledge of national and international governance and its interaction with developmental economics.

In 2015, I entered law school in San Beda University to fulfil my lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer. In law school, I became an active member of the Human Rights Advocates (HRA). This organization aims to promote the study of human rights and advocates for human rights both within the academic institution and among Filipino citizens. The HRA creates activities that engages law students in promoting human rights.

In late August, I participated in a training called Bayanihan, conducted by the HRA in partnership with an NGO, Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE). LENTE briefed participants on the state of human rights in the country, followed by a crash course in human rights and transitional justice and ending it with a training on how to document cases of extrajudicial killings (EJKs).

Through this activity, it is hoped that the members of the HRA can help in preserving the testimonies of the victims of human rights violations in the country. When the time is ripe to demand appropriate legal actions, these preserved testimonies will serve as sufficient evidence to achieve the justice that victims seek.

Hra Group All

Human rights is inherent in every person but our generation is witnessing a rampant disregard and abuse of these human rights We must all speak out to protect those who are victims of injustice. Moreover, we must fight to end all practices that undermine our inherent rights as human beings.

I have been privileged with the gift of knowledge since I became a YES scholar. Since then, I vowed to use my privilege to fight for equity and justice; to be at the forefront of promoting human rights. No one is too young to be involved in this advocacy. In fact, it is the young people that can champion this fight because we have the time and energy to change the course of humanity. As Theodore Parker said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”