Proposed legislation to establish a Human Defenders Law should be withdrawn from the House of Representatives and Senate or vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte if Congress passes the measure, the group Liga Independencia Pilipinas (LIPI) said Wednesday.
“This may appear to be okay on the surface, but a closer examination of the suggestions reveals numerous flaws,” said Jose Antonio “Ka Pep” Goitia, LIPI National Chairperson, in a statement.
He noted that House Bill 10576 and Senate Bill 179 both define a human rights defender “as someone who advocates for any human right (or rights) on behalf of individuals or groups. Human rights defenders work to promote and protect civil and political rights, as well as economic, social, and cultural rights.”
“However, we object to the institutionalization of a human rights law.
No such law has been approved in any country, as it is ambiguous and can be abused as a political tool by any individual or organization,” Goitia said.
The LIPI chief said the group “makes no judgments about the activities of those involved in these types of advocacies.”
“On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly in Paris adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a universal benchmark of success for all peoples and nations. It establishes for the first time universal protection for fundamental human rights,” Goitia noted.
However, he said: “The truth is that Senator Leila De Lima’s Senate Bill 179 is purely political in nature. She attacked President Duterte without justification in the bill’s explanatory note.”
“Her comment smells like poisoned propaganda designed to portray the President as a human rights violator. Since the President took office in 2016, it is well-known that she has been a critic,” Goitia added.
The group also said Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman “is similarly situated,” noting that the lawmaker “is the brother of revolutionary socialist and labor leader Ka Popoy Lagman. Ka Popoy identifies as a Marxist-Leftist.”
The Human Defenders Bill, Goitia said, “will pave the way for the CPP-NPA-NDF to begin recruiting our kids. Prohibited communist propaganda aimed at undermining our democratic institutions and way of life will continue to spread.”
The bills’ shortcomings, he said, are best articulated by Undersecretary Severo Cultura, the NTF- ELCAC’s Spokesperson, to wit:
1. The bill does not protect genuine human rights defenders, but rather allows for the advancement of an environment that encourages deception and dishonesty. It is diametrically opposed to the human rights ideals being established.
2. If passed by Congress, this legislation will have a detrimental effect on the country’s overall war against domestic terrorism and the progress of the peace process.
3. It is also a smack in the face of the United Nations, whose human rights policies are either perverted or ignored entirely.
4. The bill’s provision of a right to solicit, receive, and exploit resources is in direct conflict with a critical existing statute that regulates resource soliciting.
5. By establishing sanctuaries for human rights victims, criminals and those facing criminal charges might seek refuge under the guise of
victims of human rights breaches or human rights defenders.
6. By declaring that four organizations will compose the proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee, the law contradicts the human rights tenet of inclusion. The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocacy, Karapatan, the Free Legal Assistance Group, and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers are among these organizations.
“Why do we still require such human rights legislation? The Bill of Rights in our Constitution adequately addresses these issues. We
already have sufficient systems in place to ensure the rights of citizens, victims of crimes, and even offenders,” Goitia said.
“Only the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front will benefit from the passage of the
Human Rights Defenders Act. We seek the withdrawal of these bills from the House and Senate. We ask the President to veto this bill if passed by Congress,” he added.