Casiño calls for immediate enactment of Human Rights Defenders Protection Act

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PARTY LIST Rep. Teddy Casiño today called on the Aquino administration to push for the passage of House Bill 5379 or the Human Rights Defenders Act as more human rights violations are being reported by the day.

Based on a new preliminary report from the Geneva-based Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, “There is compelling evidence that human rights defenders, in particular those advocating for land and environmental rights, are under serious threat, are constantly vilified, intimidated and ‘terrorized.’ A climate of pervasive and systematic impunity is at the heart of this alarming situation. Urgent protection measures and unequivocal steps to address the lack of accountability for attacks on human rights defenders are now required.”

The Observatory is a project of the World Organization against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

“As the world commemorates International Human Rights Day, it is high time that the Aquino government stop playing blind and deaf to the real human rights situation in our country. There are at least 129 victims of extrajudicial killings that have been documented by Karapatan, among these, 69 are farmers and 25 are from indigenous peoples. Most of those killed in Mindanao, for instance, are anti-mining activists and Lumad leaders who defend their land and the environment against the intrusion of big foreign mining corporations,” said Casiño.

“As can be seen, human rights defenders in the Philippines face human rights violations themselves in the course of their work and these violations include killings, death threats, abductions and kidnappings, arbitrary arrest and detention, and other actions of harassment and intimidation, for example through defamation campaigns. All these violations also target the immediate family members of human rights defenders, including their children and their other relatives, so as to prevent them from continuing their activities,” Casiño said.

“Human rights campaigners are affected in many regions in the country by restrictions on their activities and their persecution as human rights defenders,” the solon added.

The bill states the following rights for human rights defenders: 1) Right to promote and protect human rights.2) Right to information about human rights. 3) Right to develop and advocate human rights ideas. 4) Right to participate in public affairs 5) Right to access to human rights violations victims and, if necessary, provide legal assistance or facilitate the provision of the same.6) Right to unhindered access to communication with human rights bodies.7) Right to refuse to violate human rights. 8) Right to participate in activities against human rights violations. 9) Right to solicit, receive and utilize resources.10) Right to establish a sanctuary to human rights victims.11) Right to file an action involving human rights violations – human rights organizations as complainants.12) Right to access documents of government units and personnel, paramilitary units and personnel, and military affiliate and government assets.

As for the government it should ensure that the rights of human rights defenders are protected. It should also inform its officers and employees to under pain of punishment not to violate human rights. It also mandate schools, universities and colleges to teach human rights from elementary to college and make it part of their curriculum. The bill also mandates officers and their subordinates to have all their orders or commands written so that there would be accountability.

“Kailan ba matitigil ang mga HRVs? Ang mga magsasaka na isinusulong lamang ay ang kanilang karapatan sa lupa ay pinapatay, ang mga katutubo na ipinagtatanggol lamang ang kanilang lupang ninuno ay pinapatay din. Ang masakit pa mismong mga sundalo ng gobyerno at mga tauhan nila kasabwat ang mga malalaking kumpanya ang gumagawa nito at di ito pinipigilan ng pamahalaan. Katarungan ang isinisigaw ng mga biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao at ang pagsasabatas ng HR Defenders Act ay isang paraan para din a maulit ang ganitong kalagayan,” Casiño said.

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