House OKs on third reading bill protecting human rights defenders

House OKs on third reading bill protecting human rights defenders

News, House Of Representatives

1/17/2022 1:45:00 PM

House OKs on third reading bill protecting human rights defenders

The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third reading the measure defining the rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders .

The bill defines a human rights defender as "any person, who individually or in association with others, acts or seeks to act to protect, promote, or strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms and welfare of the people, at the local, national, regional, and international levels."

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, principal author of the bill, earlier said the measure gives meaning and efficacy to the nine core international human rights instruments on the protection and promotion of human rights.Lagman said the approval of the measure would curb "the prevailing impunity on the extrajudicial killings and extreme harassments of human rights defenders."

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House Bill 10576 obtained 200 affirmative votes during the plenary session. The bill defines a human rights defender as "any person, who individually or in association with others, acts or seeks to act to protect, promote, or strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms and welfare of the people, at the local, national, regional, and international levels." Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, principal author of the bill, earlier said the measure gives meaning and efficacy to the nine core international human rights instruments on the protection and promotion of human rights. Lagman said the approval of the measure would curb "the prevailing impunity on the extrajudicial killings and extreme harassments of human rights defenders." Among the key provisions of the bill is prohibiting all public authorities from participating, by acts of commission or omission, in violating human rights and fundamental freedoms. "Subordinate employees have the right and duty to refuse any order from their superiors that will cause the commission of acts that contravene their duty to protect, uphold, and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. Such refusal shall not constitute a ground for any administrative sanction," Lagman said. This also strengthens the obligation of public authorities to conduct investigations on suspected human rights violations against human rights defenders, according to Lagman. It also authorizes government agencies to enforce and institutionalize command responsibility and impose sanctions against errant superiors in both military and civilian agencies as provided under existing laws and executive issuances. Further, it orders public authorities to adopt the human rights-based approach to governance and development including in counter-insurgency and anti-terror programs and policies. The bill also seeks the creation of an independent collegial body, which will be called as the Human Rights Defenders Committee. The committee will protect human rights defenders from intimidation and reprisals and will also be mandated to probe into complaints regarding human rights violations against the defenders. Some progressive lawmakers hailed the approval of the measure. ACT Teachers party-list Representative France Castro said she hopes that "this step takes us closer to a law that will finally extend higher protection for human rights defenders and will lay down stricter accountability for those who attack them." "In a country where human rights defense is criminalized, where standing with the poor and the oppressed is as dangerous, even more deadly than the COVID-19 virus, a law recognizing the invaluable role of human rights defenders is essential," Castro said. "We thus consider the passage of this bill as a strong condemnation of the violence wrought against the poor and the marginalized and those who stand behind them, with them, and in their defense," she added. Kabataan party-list Representative Sarah Elago, for her part, said the measure bill could enable and operationalize the full and strict adherence of the government to the principles and standards on human rights and fundamental freedoms set by the 1987 Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments.  — RSJ, GMA News