Sat. May 21st, 2022

The Human Rights Defenders bill being pushed anew by the Makabayan bloc in Congress is unnecessary, unconstitutional and will only serve and protect the interest of terrorist organizations such as the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

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This is what several legal and human rights experts explained during the special edition of the ‘virtual’ press conference of the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Wednesday.

Undersecretary Severo Catura, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson on International Affairs, Peace Process and Human Rights Concerns, said there are “many legal infirmities” to the proposed Human Rights Defenders’ Bill.

The proposed legislation seeks to institutionalize in the government certain groups that are known to be fronts of CPP-NPA-NDF, such as Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), which shall become mandatory members of the so-called “Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee” that will be created once the law is enacted.

Catura said even the United Nations (UN) does not have any pronouncement on who should be classified as “human rights defenders.”

“Human rights defender is not a job title,” Catura explained, adding that defending human rights should be pursued by everyone in accordance with UN’s declarations, but should be done in a “peaceful manner.”

What the UN has directly stated is that the government, police and military are the defenders of human rights, according to Catura.

He also questioned the motivations of the Makabayan bloc in pushing for the proposed legislation since the bill did not even have the courage to denounce the proven atrocities committed by Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs).

“This is a travesty and mockery of human rights,” Catura said.

Lawyer Marlon Bosantog, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for Legal Affairs and Indigenous People (IP) Concerns, cited the case of Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, a most wanted NPA leader who was killed during an encounter with government troops in Bukidnon, is being readied to be “sanctified” as a freedom fighter by proponents of the bill.

“For IPs, he (Madlos) was their butcher. But under the bill he can be defended,” Bosantog said, explaining that the bill could be misused and abused by CTGs to claim that human rights violators such as Madlos are the victims.

On the other hand, lawyer Rhowee Buergo, a member of the NTF-ELCAC Legal Cooperation Cluster, said that the bill “must adhere to existing laws.”

She, however, said the provisions of the bill “contradicts existing laws” like the Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (AMLA), RA 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) and RA 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

Brig. Gen. Joel Alejandro Nacnac, director of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Center for Law of Armed Conflict (AFP-CLOAC), stressed the bill “is not necessary,” because the country has already enough laws and the Constitution has enough measures and protections in place against human rights violations.

Nacnac added that this bill will be abused by “false claimants,” especially from the affiliated organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDF. “Congress should look into the backgrounds of the proponents of the one-sided bill.”

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