By Michael Aaron Gomez

The Ateneo de Davao University inaugurates the newly finished Calungsod-San Vitores Jesuit-Lay Collaboration Center, at the 11th Floor of the Community Center of the First Companions, Jacinto campus, with a Pakighinabi session on “The Bill of Rights and Non-State Actors in the Proposed Federalist Constitution,” in the afternoon of Thursday, 23 August 2018. A noted scholar on political philosophy, Fr. Patrick Riordan, S.J., was the lead discussant in the Pakighinabi conducted in the eponymous hall of the Calungsod-San Vitores Center.

University President Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J. delivered the opening remarks of this inaugural Pakighinabi, which is part of the year-long celebration of the University’s 70th Anniversary in 2018. “Of the many first companions honored in this community center, we honor here the first Filipino—the Bisaya saint, Pedro Calungsod, and the Spanish missionary, Blessed Fr. Diego San Vitores, who both suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Chamorros in Guam in 1672,” Fr. Tabora said. “We honor Calungsod and San Vitores for paying for their religious convictions with their lives, and celebrate here our first Filipino saint, Pedro Calungsod, with the indigenous motif of this hall and its T’boli t’nalak-inspired accents.”

After the opening remarks, Fr. Riordan began the conversation, looking into another aspect of the controversial push of the current administration to shift the country’s government from presidential to federal. Describing the evolution of the modern conception of the State, Fr. Riordan said, “People would consent to the formation of government, for the purpose of protecting rights; to deliver them from the inconveniences of the state of nature.” He also points to the inability of the state of nature to properly address the issue of rights. “[The state of nature] lacks settled, known law; the lack of an impartial adjudicator; and the lack of a strong enforcer,” he said. And in a comment on the functions of a strong state, he added, “With a strong state, the sovereign power makes and applies laws to secure citizens’ interests against fellow citizens, non-citizens, and foreign powers.”

“The inclusion of non-state actors within a bill of rights confuses two aspects best kept separate: the strong state, and the good state,” Fr. Riordan argued. He notes in his argument the “complexity of rights-language,” the consistent rhetorical position of President Rodrigo Duterte regarding the prosecution of his infamous anti-crime campaign (“I care for human lives, not human rights”), and the international relations of the Philippines with other states.

Reacting to the argument were a set of reactors, comprising teachers and students of the University. On the topic of state protection of human rights, Dr. Arnella Clamor of the AdDU Theology Department said, “I ask myself why we do not do more to protect human rights in political discourse. I think the most important thing here is that human rights are respected and protected, whether by or from state or non-state actors.”

The SAMAHAN President, Mr. Jerry Huerbana, also chimed in on behalf of the AdDU student body, saying, “It is a challenge to encourage the youth to participate and discourse on this issue, considering that we are supposed to be at the forefront of these kinds of changes.”

Finally, the President of the Ateneo de Davao Blue Knight Alumni Association Ms. Ma. Rossana Fernandez gave a response, stating as well that it comes from a layperson’s perspective. “I appreciate the highlighting of the burden placed on the normal citizen to protect their own rights,” she said. “I would like to understand federalism as a normal citizen.”

Completing the set of reactors at the panel discussion was Mr. Jose M. Tomacruz of the Philosophy Department; Atty. Edgar Pascua II, University Registrar; Mr. Ramon Beleno III, Chair of the Political Science and History Department; Ms. Mina Limbaga, Secretary General of SAMAHAN; Dr. Eminel Jane Alvior, Chair of the Governance Department; Dr. Lenore Loqueloque, Director of the Ateneo Resource Center for Local Governance; Atty. Arnold Abejaron, Director of the Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy (APILA); Mr. Mark Paul Samante, Chair of the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC); and Dr. Gina Montalan, the Academic Vice President.

On the lead discussant, Fr. Patrick Riordan, S.J. is a lecturer teaching philosophy, politics, and ethics at Heythrop College in London. He has published various articles on subjects such as Human Dignity, Natural Law, Business Ethics, and the Just War Theory in the context of terrorism. His research interests also include the Common Good, Religion in Public Life, and the Philosophy of Justice.

The Pakighinabi is a conversation series initiated by the Office of the President of the Ateneo de Davao University to provide members of the university community a platform to discuss multidisciplinary issues and concerns in a more informal and conversational manner. Its goal is to create a structure for conversations in the frame of social justice and the common good in the pursuit of forming AdDU sui generis leaders.

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