Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. on Wednesday urged his fellow legislators to support the passage of a measure intended to protect the rights of Filipinos displaced due to armed conflicts, violence, violations of human rights, and natural calamities.
In a privilege speech, Abante, chair of the House Committee on Human Rights, appealed to his colleagues to support the passage of House Bill 8269 or “An Act Protecting the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Penalizing the Acts of Arbitrary Internal Displacement” as “internally displaced persons have suffered the brunt of conflicts and violence, and the wrath of man-made and natural disasters.”
The legislator pointed out that the 2023 Global Report of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Committee revealed that in 2022 there were 123,000 IDPs due to conflict and violence, and some 5.4 million Filipinos displaced due to natural disasters.
“Our country ranks second among the top five countries having the highest figures on internal displacements triggered by disasters, both weather-related hazards and geophysical hazards,” lamented Abante, who revealed that 130 solons have already signified their support for
The rise of IDPs globally and in the country, said Abante, shows that “game-changing policies must be put in place to reduce the number of IDPs in every State, and more urgently, in our country.”
An IDP is “any person or group of persons who has or have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence within the national borders and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border, as a result of, or in order to avoid or minimize the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized and/or organized violence, violations of human rights, implementation of development projects, clan wars, natural, human-induced and human-made hazards.”
Abante stressed that the proposed measure “provides for the protection of rights of IDPs during and after displacement, as well as their safe, voluntary, and dignified return, local integration, or resettlement elsewhere in the country.”
HB 8269, the representative from Manila said, reiterates the rights of IDPs to be “protected against criminal offenses and other unlawful acts, such as murder, hostage taking, direct or indiscriminate attacks or other acts of violence, starvation as a method of combat, their being used to shield military objectives from attack, and other offenses.”
Any person or group of persons who directly commit the act of arbitrary internal displacement and other prohibited acts as defined in the measure face penalties ranging from 12 to 15 years in prison, while those who attempt to commit the offense of arbitrary internal
displacement could be punished by six years in prison.
It likewise upholds the right of IDPs to liberty of movement and the right to choose residence and move freely in and out of any evacuation
center, encampment or other settlements.
Under the measure, local government units exercising territorial jurisdiction over the affected area, together with the national government, the military and law enforcement agencies, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Health, the Public Attorney’s Office, local government hospitals, and other appropriate government agencies shall provide immediate relief and humanitarian assistance to IDPs, families and communities. LGUs are also required to craft their Early Recovery Plans under the supervision of the Department of Interior and Local Government.
According to Abante, the measure mandates the creation of an inter-agency coordinating committee tasked to periodically monitor the
compliance with HB 8269. The body will be co-headed by the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and the Executive Director of the
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, with several agencies from the Executive Department and three representatives from
relevant non-governmental organizations as members.
IDPs, per the measure, shall be provided with financial and non-monetary assistance for their reparation, return, local integration or resettlement, without prejudice to obtaining similar assistance granted under other government programs.