Human rights alliance Karapatan renewed its call on the House of Representatives to expedite the passage of the “long overdue” Human Rights Defenders Protection Act.
“Since 2007, we have tirelessly campaigned and lobbied for the passage of this very important measure which not only recognizes the vital work of human rights defenders but also the dangers we face,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, in a statement.
“To say that it is long overdue is an understatement,” she said, adding that they “cannot stress enough the urgency of passing this measure when human rights defenders continue to have one foot on the grave for defending people’s basic rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Karapatan expressed support for the refiling of bills seeking the enactment of the proposed measure before the 19th Congress, such as House Bill No. 77 filed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and House Bill No. 256 filed by Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel.
Identical bills were passed on third and final reading in the House of Representatives during the 17th and 18th Congresses, but their respective counterpart measures in the Senate have failed to move forward.
During the 18th Congress, a total of 200 legislators voted in favor of approving House Bill No. 10576; no legislator voted against or abstained on voting on the bill. The National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict, however, has expressed opposition to the bill.
Data from Karapatan show that a total of 222 human rights defenders — among them 15 Karapatan human rights workers — have been killed from July 2016 to June 2022.
According to the human rights group, many of the victims were “red-tagged” and publicly vilified as “terrorists” before they were killed.
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