Lagman questions NTF-Elcac opposition to HRD bill: Defense sector was consulted
MANILA, Philippines — The opposition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) to a bill seeking to protect human rights defenders is misplaced according to Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, as the country’s defense institutions were consulted.
Lagman in a statement on Tuesday called out NTF-Elcac for claiming that House Bill (HB) No. 77 or the proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection Act (HRDPA) would make the Anti-Terrorism Act a mere “toothless paper tiger,” saying that it is “hallucinating”.
“The NTF-Elcac’s hyperbolic assault of red-tagging the authors and supporters of HB No. 77, as well as authentic Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), is the best argument for the immediate enactment of the law protecting HRDs from the intimidation, harassment, and liquidation by agents of the State,” Lagman said.
“The reported position paper of NTF-Elcac virulently opposing the bill on HRDs is baseless and without merit for the following reasons […] Representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), of which the NTF-Elcac is a component; the Department of National Defense (DND); Department of Justice (DOJ); Philippine National Police (PNP); and Presidential Human Rights Committee were invited and consulted during the meetings of the Committee on Human Rights and the subsequent Technical Working Group session,” he added.
Lagman further said that identical bills were passed in both the 17th and 18th Congress, but NTF-ELCAC, which had been instituted already during that time, did not oppose it.
“Identical bills on Human Rights Defenders Protection were passed on third and final reading by the House of Representatives during the 17th and 18th Congresses without any valid opposition from the NTF-Elcac,” he said.
“The emergence of HRDs is both an indictment and a symptom of the failure and neglect of the government to fully protect, promote, and fulfill human rights. HRDs are surrogate defenders due to government’s default in its primary obligation as the official protector of human rights,” he added.
The opposition lawmaker, who heads the Liberal Party, was reacting to the NTF-Elcac statement on Monday which warned that HB No. 77 will render anti-terrorism bills useless.
The anti-communist insurgency task force also claimed that the bill would be an encroachment on the jurisdiction and powers granted by the 1987 Constitution to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
READ: NTF Elcac: Human rights defenders bill could make anti-terror law a ‘toothless paper tiger’
But Lagman said that the bill actually augments the powers of the CHR, instead of diminishing it.
“The proposed law does not diminish, but in fact augments the jurisdiction of the [CHR] with the creation of the Human Rights Protection Committee to be chaired by a commissioner of the CHR and where members are appointed by the CHR. In fact, the CHR fully endorses the enactment of the proposed legislation, including the creation of the special committee on HRD’s protection,” he added.
READ: Bill protecting human-rights defenders gets House panel nod
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