Karapatan lauds House passage of proposed bill on protection of rights defenders

Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

As the House of Representatives approved House Bill No. 10576 or the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act on its third and final reading yesterday, human rights alliance Karapatan lauded the principal authors of the proposed measure “as well as all human rights defenders, lawyers, church people, journalists, development workers, and freedom of expression and association advocates in pushing for the House of Representatives’ approval of this important measure.”

“Human rights defenders were killed, arrested, detained, red-tagged, and threatened for so long — especially for the past six years under the murderous regime of President Rodrigo Duterte — and a law to criminalize these acts and to recognize the State’s duty to protect human rights defenders has been long overdue. It is high time that the Congress enacts this measure,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

House Bill No. 10576 is a consolidated version of House Bills No. 15 filed by Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman, No. 161 filed by Quezon City Sixth District Rep. Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte, and No. 240 filed by the Makabayan bloc composed of representatives from partylists Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers, Kabataan and Gabriela Women’s Party. A total of 200 legislators voted in favor approving the proposed measure. No legislator voted against or abstained on voting on the bill.

Palabay further called on the Senate “specifically Senator Richard Gordon who chairs the Committee on Human Rights, and Senate President Tito Sotto to expedite the hearings and pass the counterpart Senate Bill No. 179 filed by Senator Leila de Lima,” which is still pending at the committee level. Nonetheless, the Karapatan official asserted that “even without such law, human rights defenders should not be subjected to attacks and should be given justice.”

“Domestic remedies and accountability mechanisms have proven to be inadequate if not failing in bringing justice — precisely because they have not deterred and stopped the attacks on human rights defenders. While we recognize that the measure may not necessarily stop these attacks, it is important to set domestic norms and legal framework in addressing the specific situations of human rights defenders. It is therefore urgent that the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act be enacted along with the proposed measures to penalize red-tagging. We cannot let these attacks continue and claim more lives. All eyes are now on the Senate and eventually on President Duterte to enact this legislation before he ends his term in June 2022,” she ended.