The National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Thursday expressed its opposition anew to the Human Rights Defenders bill, describing it as “dangerous” and potentially “unconstitutional”.
The statement comes after the House of Representatives approved the bill on third and final reading last Monday, with 200 affirmative votes, zero negative, and no abstention.
House Bill 10576 or the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act seeks to grant human rights defenders the right to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms; form groups, associations, and organizations; solicit, receive, and utilize resources; seek, receive and disseminate information; and develop and advocate for human rights ideas, among others. A counterpart measure, meanwhile, is pending in the Senate.
Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for sectoral concerns, said the bill could “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).”
“This bill, if passed into a law, will open the floodgates of abuse and torment on our people by terrorists like the CPP-NPA-NDF and it will make the Anti-Terrorism Law that was recently declared constitutional by the Supreme Court ineffective and toothless,” she said.
She said the NTF-ELCAC condemned “in no uncertain terms” the approval of the bill “that is dangerous as it is unconstitutional and labeled to mean the very opposite of what it pretends to be — the Human Rights Defenders Bill.”
Badoy argued that the bill offers “a porous and overboard definition” of human rights defenders and that its basic premise is “the same basic premise of the CPP-NPA-NDF that the State is the No.1 violator of human rights.”