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NTF-ELCAC vs. Human Rights Defenders Protection Act

QUEZON CITY (PIA) -- The proposed House Bill (HB) No. 77 also knowns as the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act has raised concerns from the Legal Cooperation Cluster (LCC) of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in the Philippines. According to the task force, if this bill becomes law, it would jeopardize the democratic system of government in the country.

The proposed bill, according to the NTF-ELCAC LCC, is "vicious" and "insidious," rendering several laws ineffective, including the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Anti-Money Laundering Law as amended, and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act.

The NTF-ELCAC LCC stated that the bill contains several constitutional and legal flaws.

The definition of a "human rights defender" is broad, and could include any criminal, rebel, terrorist, or state enemy. It also provides unjustified preferential treatment to anyone claiming to be a human rights defender, such as the establishment of "sanctuaries" or safe havens for "high-risk human rights defenders" and their families.

The working group also claims that the proposed creation of a Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee is an infringement on the Commission on Human Rights jurisdiction and powers, as granted by the 1987 Constitution.

Furthermore, the bill represents a clear encroachment by the legislature on the exclusive domain of the Executive branch of government, a prerogative vested solely by Constitutional fiat and the inherent nature of the President's office as the Chief Architect of the country's foreign relations.

The task force also stated that the bill aims to create "sanctuaries" that would put the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) beyond the reach of law enforcement. This is in stark contrast to the UN Resolution, which does not create new rights but merely articulates existing ones.

Additionally, the bill prohibits the freezing and sequestration of solicited funds and resources, which could cause the Philippines to violate its obligations under the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Financing.

The NTF-ELCAC LCC expressed concern that the bill is a clear attempt to cripple the State's array of programs and projects being implemented through the whole-of-nation approach, which includes a relentless legal assault, intensified information and education campaigns, and the expanded Barangay Development Program (BDP), among other things. It believes that the bill is the CTG's obvious attempt to demoralize the NTF-ELCAC and slow the government's relentless efforts to end the communist armed conflict.

The NTF-ELCAC urged Filipinos to oppose the proposed bill and to instruct their District Representatives to veto it when introduced in the plenary for the Second Reading.

It also urged the public to be knowledgeable, informed, and vigilant against legislation that appears to be "beneficial" but is actually dangerous and destructive to the country.

The Philippines has a long history of communist insurgency, which has resulted in decades of destruction and violence. To combat the insurgency, the government has implemented a number of measures, including the formation of the NTF-ELCAC.

The proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection Act seeks to protect human rights defenders throughout the country, including those working in conflict zones.

The task force, on the other hand, claims that the bill in its current form is problematic and that if passed, it would do more harm than good. And the NTF-ELCAC is also concerned about the bill's provisions and potential consequences must be considered by lawmakers, who have a responsibility to ensure that any legislation passed in the country is in accordance with the country's Constitution and promotes democracy. (AAP – PIA CPSD)

About the Author

Kate Shiene Austria

Information Officer III

Information Officer III under the Creative and Production Services Division of the Philippine Information Agency. 

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