“[We] believe that uncomfortable questions must be asked in a free country,” Markus Loening, renowned Human Rights defender, staunchly stated during his visit to the Philippines on 18-23 July 2017.
From Berlin, the former Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of the Federal Republic of Germany and former Member of the German Federal Parliament, came to Manila for a series of meetings and speaking engagements on upholding and promoting human rights in all levels and across sectors of society – from business to politics to media and civil society. As the current Head of the Human Rights Committee of Liberal International (LI), the world federation of liberal and progressive democratic political parties, Mr. Loening is emboldened to support freedom worldwide.
His short but intensive visit included meetings with key personalities from media and human rights organizations as well as with liberal stalwarts. Rappler’s Managing Director Glenda Gloria, Research & Content Strategy Specialist Gemma Mendoza and Social Media Head Stacy de Jesus shared to Markus Loening that in the new age of post-truth, the media is challenged to “constantly understand and analyze the context, and design sophisticated methods to better craft discussion channels and improve public discourse.” He then highlighted the importance of vigilance of and regular dialogues with journalists locally and globally, “it is imperative for the press to talk to each other. Combatting this global phenomenon of alternative truth requires the media to come together, share their experiences and work towards finding solutions to activate truth.”
Mr. Loening also met with fellow human rights defenders: Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon and Ateneo Human Rights Center Director Arpee Santiago to dig deeper into the state of human rights in the country. With human rights under attack, activists are called to “support documentations of truth-telling that will hold perpetrators accountable,” expressed Chair Gascon.
Similarly, Mr. Loening’s visit to Senator Francis Pangilinan, who also sits as the chairman of the Liberal Party of the Philippines, centered on consolidating efforts to elevate political discourse and to strengthen civic education as means to counter fake news.
Mr. Loening also had a productive meeting with the Vice President of the Philippines, Leni Robredo. Both known to be human rights advocates, they shared best practices by which human rights can be promoted and weaved in business structures. The Vice President eagerly shared the Angat Buhay anti-poverty program and how it promotes human rights in business, “it’s ensuring that everyone wins in the business equation – we recognize companies that promote respect for human rights, we capacitate local producers especially small enterprises to be better entrepreneurs and we encourage local government units (LGUs) to nurture them.”
Mr. Loening agreed and emphasized the crucial role of the government in ensuring the protection of human rights in businesses, “protecting human rights is having a legal system that works. it requires institutions, including the government, to respect the law.”
Capping Mr. Loening’s visit were meetings with the Asian Institute of Management and members of Students for Liberty, a political organization. FNF Philippines Country Director Wolfgang Heinze expressed his gratitude for the visits, “Thank you for the opportunity to share different perspectives and finding new spaces to address new challenges. Re-invigorating truth-telling and respect for human rights are key to finding effective solutions to these issues that we are confronted with worldwide.”
FNF is German non-profit organization that promotes human rights, good governance, rule of law and free market. It operates in more than 60 offices worldwide.