The Moro as a human rights advocate

Today, I visited the offices of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) in Cotabato. MinHRAC is one of the four organizations accredited by the Government and the MILF to be part of the Civilian Protection Component of the International Monitoring Team. The Civilian Protection Component monitors and reports on possible violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. MinHRAC is headed by lawyers Zainnudin “Zen” Malang and Rasul “Ras” Mitmug. I  am proud to know and be friends of Zen and Ras.

I met Zen sometime in the 1990s when we were both law students at that law school in Makati. Zen was 3 years my senior at law school and we were both members of the Law Journal. As a freshman, I was Zen’s understudy and I assisted him in some of the editorial work of the Journal. After that short stint, I never heard of Zen again. I think he went overseas for further studies. I never imagined that Zen would one day end up doing human rights work in the future. As far as I was concerned, he was not the type.

Ras, on the other hand, was my student at the law school. I remember Ras as a silent and conscientious student. Suffice to say however that I never imagined Ras to be doing human rights work in the future.  From my point of view, he was not also the type.

Fast forward to present times. These two young men, generations apart in law school, are now at the forefront of protecting and preserving human rights in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao. I am proud of them. Knowing the “costs” and “complications” of advocating and fighting for human rights in these parts of Mindanao, I see them dedicated to their principles and vision for their people.

Hindsight they say is always 20/20 vision, but looking back, Zen and Ras are exactly the type of persons doing human rights work as they have hearts that feel genuine compassion for the poor and powerless, sharp minds to understand the intricacies of law and politics and steady hands eager to build a peaceful and brighter future for their people. All the best, Zen and Ras.

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