By Billy Begas
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has refiled a measure seeking to protect human rights defenders (HRDs).
Lagman filed the proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection Act (House Bill 77), a bill identical to the measures approved on third and final reading in the House of Representatives during the 17th and 18th Congresses but were not acted upon by the Senate due to time limitations.
The solon said his measure will put to test the avowal of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to fully respect human rights.
In a meeting with Ambassador Gustavo Gonzalez, the UN representative to the Philippines, last month Marcos committed to protecting human rights.
Lagman said that the “emergence of human rights defenders (HRDs) is both an indictment and symptom of the failure and neglect of the government to fully protect, promote, and fulfill human rights.”
He added that HRDs are surrogate defenders due to the government’s default in its primary obligation as the principal protector of human rights under the Constitution.
HB 77 also seeks the creation of a Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee whose members shall be appointed by the Commission on Human Rights.
Under the measure, the following are the rights and freedoms of HRDs:
Right to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms;
Right to form groups, associations and organizations;
Right to peaceful assembly;
Right to seek, receive and disseminate information;
Right to privacy;
Right to develop and advocate human rights ideas;
Right to solicit, receive and utilize resources;
Right to access, communicate and cooperate with international and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms;
Right to an effective remedy and full reparation;
Freedom from intimidation and reprisal; and
Freedom of movement.
The following will be the obligations of the State and public authorities:
To respect, promote, protect and fulfill the rights of HRDs;
Not to participate in violating human rights and fundamental freedoms;
To facilitate the activities and work of HRDs;
To prevent and ensure protection from intimidation or reprisal;
To penalize intimidation or reprisal;
To refrain from derogatory and unfounded labeling;
To ensure protection from arbitrary or unlawful intrusion or interference;
To conduct an investigation, and to ensure effective remedy and full reparation;
To promote and facilitate human rights education; and
To adopt a human rights-based governance.