By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Leila De Lima on Wednesday pushed for the passage of a bill that seeks mechanisms to protect human rights defenders.
“It is imperative that Congress look after their welfare with the growing number of attacks against them under the Duterte administration,” De Lima said
De Lima was referring to Senate Bill No. 1699 or the proposed “Act to promote and protect the rights of human rights defenders.”
“Sa simula pa lamang po ng administrasyong Duterte, mahigit isang taon at kalahati na ngayon, ay nasaksihan na natin kung paano ininsulto at hinamak ang konsepto ng karapatang pantao, (From the very start of this Duterte administration, more than a year and a half now, we were able to witness how this government insult and disregard the concept of human rights),” De Lima said in a statement.
“The obsessive attacks against these concepts and principles, led by no less than the President himself, have rendered us, human rights defenders, vulnerable and our work extremely difficult and dangerous,” she further said.
What has become apparent, she said, is how women human rights defenders and activists in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have become vulnerable not only to killings and harassment but to misogynistic and sexual violence as well.
The former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair also denounced Duterte’s public declaration last year that he would order human rights workers to be killed.
“It clearly places human rights defenders under threat and encourages culture of impunity,” she said.
“Enforced disappearance, death, harassment, suppression of fundamental human rights and freedoms are continuing challenges of individuals and the organizations to which they belong. This does not escape notice from outside the Philippines,” she stressed.
Under the bill, De Lima said the government is obligated to ensure protection of HRDs against intimidation and unlawful intrusion by any public or private individual.
The government is also mandated to conduct investigation whenever there is reasonable ground to believe that an HRD has been killed, disappeared, tortured, ill-treated, arbitrarily detained, threatened or subject to a violation of any of the rights.
The measure also ensures the rights of HRDs from defamation and harassment “in all forms of media and communication, and whether by public authorities or private actors,” in relation to his or her work.