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House OKs bill protecting human rights defenders

/ 04:23 PM June 03, 2019
House OKs bill protecting human rights defenders

INQUIRER.NET PHOTO/RYAN LEAGOGO

Update

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has unanimously approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to prevent human rights violations and abuses perpetrated against human rights defenders (HRDs).

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Some 183 House members voted to green-light House Bill No. 9199 or the Human Rights Defenders (HRD) Protection Bill on Monday. No one opposed or abstained.

The bill guarantees HRD rights and freedoms including rights against vilification; mandates the State and public authorities to respect, protect, and fulfill these rights and freedoms; and imposes appropriate sanctions to counter impunity, among others.

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Once signed into law, the bill will also create a Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee chaired by a Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and six members who will be jointly nominated by concerned civil society organizations.

Albay 1st District Rep. Lagman, who sponsored the bill on second reading last week, lauded the approval of the measure.

“It is high time that we accord stronger legal protection to those who defend not only their own human rights and fundamental freedoms but those of others as well,” Lagman said in a statement.

He said HB 9199 is based on the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Model National Law on the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders drafted by the International Service for Human Rights.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights recorded the killing of 697 human rights defenders in the country for the period 2001 to 2018, while Task Force Detainees of the Philippines documented 76 human rights violations affecting 333 HRDs from September 2013 to September 2016 alone.

In the recent World Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, UN Special Rapporteur Michael Forst called on the Philippine government to “end immediately all forms of violations against human rights defenders, including extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.”

Forst also urged the Philippine government to “cease immediately the public stigmatization of human rights defenders, which can incite perpetrators to act against them, and instead to publicly recognize the legitimacy and importance of their work.”

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HB 9199 consolidated HB 8128 principally authored by Lagman, and HB 1617 introduced by Reps. Carlos Zarate, Antonio Tinio, Emmi de Jesus, France Castro, Arlene Brosas, Ariel Casilao, and Sarah Elago.

Former Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares dubbed the passage of the bill in the House as “historic.”

“The case of the illegal arrest of former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, Rep. France Castro and other members of Talaingod 18 as well as peace advocate Rey Casambre and his wife underscores the passage of a law that protects HR defenders,” Colmenares noted.

Zarate meanwhile hopes that the Senate counterpart of the bill could be approved before the 17th Congress adjourns sine die on June 8. The Senate’s version of the bill, however, is still pending at the committee level.

“We fervently hope that this bill, when enacted can help protect and advance the rights of those who are defending human rights in the Philippines,” Zarate added.

Chapter II of the bill enumerates the rights and freedoms of human rights defenders:

– Right to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms
– Right to form groups, associations, and organizations
– Right to solicit, receive, and utilize resources
– Right to seek, receive, and disseminate information
– Right to develop and advocate for human rights ideas
– Right to communicate with non-governmental, governmental, and intergovernmental organizations
– Rights against vilification
– Right to access, communicate and cooperate with international and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms
– Right to participate in public affairs
– Right to peaceful assembly
– Right to represent and advocate
– Right to freedom of movement
– Right to privacy
– Freedom from intimidation or reprisal
– Right to establish a sanctuary for human rights victims and/or their families
– Right to exercise cultural rights and to development of personality
– Freedom from defamation and stigmatization
– Right to exercise cultural rights and to development of personality
– Right to effective remedy and full reparation

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TAGS: Albay 1st District Rep. Lagman, House of Representatives, Human rights, human rights defenders, United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
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