House meets UN's Khan: We push for bills to guard Filipinos' rights

House meets UN rapporteur Khan: We push for bills to protect rights

/ 12:30 PM February 01, 2024

House meets UN rapporteur Khan: We push for bills to protect rights

The House of Representatives assures visiting United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Irene Khan that it has been working to pass bills that further promote Filipinos’ rights to free speech and information. House lawmakers and Khan met on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. Photo from the House of Representatives

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives assured visiting United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Irene Khan that it has been actively working to pass bills that further promote and uphold free speech and information rights.

According to the House, Zamboanga del Norte 2nd District Rep. Glona Labadlabad, Negros Occidental 4th District Rep. Juliet Marie Ferrer, and Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo met with Khan on Wednesday to discuss some of the proposed laws.


Khan is the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.


Labadlabad, chair of the House committee on inter-parliamentary relations and diplomacy, said the meeting was a “pivotal moment that embodies the House and the UN’s shared commitment to human rights, equality, and open dialogue.”

READ: UN Rapporteur holds dialogue with Cebu media, police

During the meeting. Ferrer, head of the House committee on justice, presented to Khan updates on the 14 House bills on freedom of expression and opinion, the welfare of media workers, and protection of journalists and their sources.

“The Philippine Congress has enacted and will continue to discuss and enact timely and impactful legislation to uphold the Filipinos’ constitutional right of access to information, freedom of expression, and press freedom,” Ferrer said.

In response, Khan suggested that the House prioritize three bills from among the many proposed measures considered by the lower chamber. These bills are on human rights defenders, media welfare, and possible decriminalization of libel and cyber libel.

READ: UN official asked: Probe use of trolls in spreading fake news


“Those three would be absolutely critical to make sure you are on set very well the mainstream of human rights in this country,” said Khan, as quoted in the House-release statement.

However, Ferrer told Khan that the House committee on human rights approved the Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Bill in February 2023, awaiting deliberation at the plenary for the second and third readings.

READ: UN’s Irene Khan visits detained activists, draws NTF-Elcac’s ire

Salo, meanwhile, assured Khan that even while the proposed measures have not yet been approved, the 1987 Constitution promotes and protects the rights to free speech, free expression, and peaceful assembly.

“It’s self-explanatory. Hence, it doesn’t need a bill to implement it,” Salo said. “They (media) are all around. The standards they follow are developed by themselves.”

Khan arrived in the Philippines last January 22. She was welcomed by the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS).

According to PTFoMS, Khan’s visit is “an opportunity to highlight the Philippines’ unwavering dedication to openness, transparency, and a thriving media landscape where everyone is empowered to express their opinions freely.”

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Khan will be in the country until February 2, when she can freely meet with government institutions and non-government organizations regarding Filipinos’ rights to freedom of opinion and expression, among others.

TAGS: House of Representatives, Irene Khan, rights, United Nations

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