Cristina Palabay of Karapatan stressed that it is high time that Congress enacts the said measure as many “human rights defenders were killed, arrested, detained, red-tagged and threatened for so long, and a law to criminalize these acts has been long overdue.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The House of Representatives approved in third and final reading the Human Rights Protection Defenders Protection Act on Monday, Jan. 17.
The said proposed measure is a consolidated version of House bills, which have been pending in the House Committee on Human Rights since July 2019.
Cristina Palabay of Karapatan lauded the principal authors of the proposed measure and called on the Senate, specifically Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, and Senate President Tito Sotto to expedite the hearings and pass the proposed Human Rights Defenders Bill of Sen. Leila de Lima which has been pending in the committee level since July 2019.
Palabay stressed that it is high time that Congress enacts the said measure as many “human rights defenders were killed, arrested, detained, red-tagged and threatened for so long, and a law to criminalize these acts has been long overdue.”
The proposed measure cites the rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders, and the obligations of the state and public authorities to respect, promote, protect and fulfill the rights of human rights defenders.
State actors are mandated to take all necessary measures to ensure:
1) that human rights and fundamental freedoms stated in the bill are effectively guaranteed and protected;
2) that all laws, policies and programs of government are consistent with the rights stated in the bill;
3) that human rights defenders are able to undertake their activities and work in a safe and enabling environment free from restriction.
The bill also seeks to penalize intimidation or reprisal, and mandates public authorities not to engage in “false, unfounded, derogatory labeling of human rights defenders including identifying them as ‘reds,’ ‘communists,’ ‘terrorists’ or ‘enemies of the State.’”
Section 32 also mandates all public authorities not to participate in violating human rights and fundamental freedoms while Section 33 states that if the rights of a human rights defender stated in this Act is violated, whether upon the direction of a public authority or private actor, the State must ensure that a “prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation is conducted with extraordinary diligence and is prosecuted under existing applicable law.”
Penalty for those who will be found guilty in violating the law will be prision mayor (six to 12 years imprisonment) in its maximum period to reclusion temporal (12 to 20 years of imprisonment).
“Human rights defenders have an essential role in protecting and promoting human rights in our country. In return, we must protect them and ensure their freedom and security so they can perform their duties. Besides, we must adhere to the commitment of the Philippines enshrined in the United Nations General Assembly Resolutions on the human rights defenders,” said Gabriela Women’s Party Arlene Brosas in her explanation of the vote. (RTS, RVO)