”Only human rights violators and the NTF-ELCAC are afraid of the Human Rights Defenders Bill.”
Rights group Karapatan said this in reaction to statements made on Monday, March 13, 2023, by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) opposing House Bill 77, or the Human Rights Defenders Bill. HB 77 was recently approved at the committee level at the House of Representatives.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said, “The NTF-ELCAC’s opposition comes as no surprise because when passed into law, this piece of legislation will directly challenge and confront the agency’s actions, including the relentless red-tagging and state-sponsored attacks against human rights defenders, government critics, activists and dissenters.”
“It is appalling how the NTF-ELCAC claims that the bill is a ‘vicious threat to democracy,’ when they are the ones who fabricate lies and weaponize the law to criminalize everybody they have maliciously and wrongly labelled and tagged as ‘terrorist,’” she added.
Palabay reiterated how the proposed bill enumerates and clarifies the definition of the rights of human rights defenders, particularly the right to form associations, groups and organizations; seek, receive and disseminate information; be secure in academic institutions; to enjoy privacy; participate in public affairs; and receive protection against intimidation, reprisals, defamation, stigmatization and vilification, among others.
Palabay likewise slammed the NTF-ELCAC for zeroing in on a provision of the bill granting sanctuary to endangered human rights defender. “The passage of a law for the protection of the people’s right to defend human rights should provide stronger accountability measures for state actors who systematically and routinely violate people’s rights,” she said. “Providing sanctuary is only one of the means by which the safety and security of human rights defenders can be protected. So why is the NTF-ELCAC so obsessed against providing sanctuary? Is it because this will prevent them from freely killing, abducting, arresting or harassing and intimidating anyone they tag as terrorist?” Palabay asked.
She likewise took exception to the NTF-ELCAC’s claims that the powers of the Commission on Human Rights would become superfluous once the HR defenders bill is passed into law. “The Human Rights Defenders Act will, in fact, enhance and support the work of human rights defenders in the country, which would include both the CHR and non-government organizations,” Palabay said.
The CHR has issued a statement in full support of the passage of the HR Defenders Bill. Karapatan said that the enactment of the proposed legislation is long overdue, considering the numerous killings and attacks against human rights defenders.
“With the Legal Cooperation Cluster of the NTF-ELCAC functioning as a factory of lies and fabricated charges against human rights defenders, it is no wonder they reject a bill that would expose their dirty tactics of weaponizing the law to suppress human rights defenders. Many people have suffered arbitrary detention and threats in the hands of these people,” Palabay said.
Karapatan renewed its call for the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC.
“This agency is a huge waste of people’s money,” said Palabay, “because it exists to mastermind and implement human rights violations and defend the culture of impunity enjoyed by human rights violators.” #