DAVAO CITY – Partylist lawmakers today urged the government to pass the Human Rights Defenders Bill which provides penalties for violations of the rights of human rights workers.

Bayan Muna partylist representative Neri Colmenares has authored House Bill 1472 or An Act Defining Certain Rights of Human Rights Defenders and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof in Implementation of the 1998 UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibility of Individuals; Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights or Otherwise Known as the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

The bill is still pending with the Committee on Human Rights since July 2013.

Colmenares said the “protection of the rights of human rights defenders should be among the priority bills of the administration, considering the spate of human rights violations committed against the people, even the defenders of human rights.”

“It is within this dire situation of human rights and the state of impunity in the country that makes the passage of this bill essential for the protection of human rights,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares cited Karapatan’s report which documented 294 extrajudicial killings under the Aquino administration.

He said at least 69 of these are human rights defenders including Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, an Italian missionary to lumad communities.

Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, also from Bayan Muna said the role of human rights defenders is important in the protection of human rights.

“It is necessary that we protect the rights of the people fighting for human rights because they are clearly being targeted by suppression campaigns of the government. Their advocacy for the promotion, protection, and defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms has earned for them the status as ‘enemies of the state,’ exemplified by the surveillance, death threats, abductions, arrests, killings, and other grave human rights violation committed by state agents and mercenaries against them,” Zarate said.

Zarate said the inaction on the government part to address the human rights situation in the country has resulted to “heightened impunity”.

“There is no respect and protection for human rights under the Tuwid na Daan, and we must not let it continue,” he said. (davaotoday.com)

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