Human rights defenders bill approved at the House Committee

“We strongly call on our lawmakers to pass the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act — and upholding human rights should be at the top of the legislative agenda of those running for a seat in Congress in the upcoming elections.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Rights group Karapatan welcomes the approval of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act (HB 15) in the House Committee on Human Rights yesterday, Nov. 15.

But Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said the bill’s passage still has a long way to go as it has yet to pass deliberations at the plenary.

“We strongly call on our lawmakers to pass the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act — and upholding human rights should be at the top of the legislative agenda of those running for a seat in Congress in the upcoming elections,” Palabay said in a statement.

Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago also said that “it is imperative to give the highest priority to the implementation of legislative enactments, executive issuances and judicial decisions that guarantee respect, protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, to provide access to legal remedies and reparative measures to human rights violations victims.”

Elago stressed that “the government must fully and strictly adhere to the principles and standards on human rights and fundamental freedoms set by the 1987 Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments ? all of which can be enabled and operationalized in the Human Rights Defenders bill in the 18th Congress.”

HB 15 is a consolidated version of House Bills filed by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, Quezon City 6th District Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte, and Makabayan bloc legislators. The bills have been pending in the committee since July 2019.

Read: Groups continue to seek passing of law that protects human rights defenders

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) said that it is high time to enact a law protecting human rights defenders and penalizing those who violate human rights.

The group cited particular provisions that are relevant to the work of journalists such as the protection on the right to seek, receive and disseminate information, on the right to communicate with non-governmental, governmental and inter-governmental organizations, and on the right to privacy (Sec.17).

“Freedom from intimidation or reprisal and the right against defamation, stigmatization and vilification (Sec. 20) with a clause for liability of concerned government personnel will protect our job as truth-tellers,” Ronalyn V. Olea, secretary general of the NUJP said during the committee hearing.

Journalists are among those who were attacked under President Duterte’s administration. International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has included Duterte among the 37 “press freedom predators.”

Abolish NTF-ELCAC

Meanwhile, during the Nov. 15 committee hearing, resource persons of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict expressed their opposition to the passage of the bill.

“It comes as no surprise that the NTF-ELCAC and its cabal of red-taggers are shamelessly blocking the passage of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act; after all, who else would be afraid of it than those guilty of perpetrating attacks on human rights defenders?” Palabay asked.

Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc had to intervene and raise points of order as NTF-ELCAC resource persons red-tagged the authors of the bill.

Palabay asserts that the counterinsurgency task force be abolished.

“Their hardline opposition against the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act and red-tagging of the authors of this proposed measure displays clearly why the measure is important,” she said. (RTS) (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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