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House OKs bill defining rights, guaranteeing fundamental freedoms of rights defenders

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The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading the measure seeking to define the rights and guarantee the fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders.

Voting 183-0, the chamber approved House Bill 9199, principally authored by the seven members of the progressive Makabayan bloc and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.

The measure aims to recognize the important role and valuable work of individuals and groups contributing to the prevention of all forms of human rights violations, as well as their fundamental freedoms.

It also seeks to impose sanctions to anyone who violates the rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders.

The measure defines "human rights defender" as any one who, individually or in association with others, acts or seeks to act, to protect and promote the protection of human rights, the fundamental freedoms, and welfare of the people.

"Human rights and fundamental freedoms," meanwhile, are defined as the rights or entitlements inherent in all persons, and freedoms recognized in or declared by international and regional human rights instruments and customary international and national laws.

The measure provides for the rights and freedoms of human rights defenders, which include:

  • Right to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • Right to form groups, associations and organizations
  • Right to solicit, receive and utilize resources
  • Right to seek, receive and disseminate information
  • Right to develop and advocate for human rights ideas
  • Right to communicate with non-governmental, government and intergovernmental organizations
  • Right against vilification
  • Right to access, communicate and cooperate with international and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms
  • Right to participate in public affairs
  • Right to peaceful assembly
  • Right to represent and advocate
  • Right to freedom of movement
  • Right to privacy
  • Freedom from intimidation or reprisal
  • Right to establish a sanctuary for human rights victims and/or their families
  • Freedom from defamation and stigmatization
  • Right to exercise cultural rights and to development of personality
  • Right to effective remedy and full reparation

The measure also enumerates the obligations of the State and public authorities, and ensures that the rights and fundamental freedoms are effectively granted to human rights defenders.

If enacted into law, the measure will also created a Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee, which will be chaired by a Commissioner of the Commission of Human Rights and six members jointly nominated by concerned civil society groups.

Lagman welcomed the approval of the measure on third and final reading.

"It is high time that we accord stronger legal protection to those who defend not only their own human rights and fundamental freedoms but those of others as well,” Lagman said in a statement. — RSJ, GMA News

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