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Rm. N-411, House of Representatives, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
+63 2 931 5497, +63 2 931 5001 local 7370

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is hallucinating of an increased communist-terrorist menace to be fueled by the approval of the proposed “Human Rights Defenders Protection Act”, according to Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, the principal author of the measure.

The NTF-ELCAC’s hyperbolic assault of red-tagging the authors and supporters of HB No. 77, as well as authentic Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), is the best argument for the immediate enactment of the law protecting HRDs from the intimidation, harassment, and liquidation by agents of the State.

The reported position paper of NTF-ELCAC virulently opposing the bill on HRDs is baseless and without merit for the following reasons:

  1. Identical bills on Human Rights Defenders Protection were passed on third and final reading by the House of Representatives during the 17th and 18th Congresses without any valid opposition from the NTF-ELCAC.

  2. The emergence of HRDs is both an indictment and a symptom of the failure and neglect of the government to fully protect, promote, and fulfill human rights. HRDs are surrogate defenders due to government’s default in its primary obligation as the official protector of human rights.

  3. The definition of human rights in HB No. 77 is clear and definitive as it adopted the definition in the “A Model Law for Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders” prepared by the International Service for Human Rights which is endorsed by 28 high level experts and jurists and developed over a three-year period with face-to-face consultations with over 500 HRDs from over 110 States, including the Philippines. The model law is based on the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

  4. The proposed law does not repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, Anti-Money Laundering Law and the Terrorism Financing, Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012. These statutes remain enforceable in the proper cases with due respect and protection to authentic HRDs.

  5. In the long global campaign for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights, HRDs have emerged as a distinct class who need protection from harassment and atrocities committed by agents of the State. Consequently, there is no class legislation in giving special protection to HRDs.

  6. The HRD Protection bill promotes and protects the legitimate exercise of the freedom of expression contrary to the position of the NTF-ELCAC that red-tagging should be protected as free speech.

  7. The proposed law does not diminish, but in fact augments the jurisdiction of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) with the creation of the Human Rights Protection Committee to be chaired by a commissioner of the CHR and where members are appointed by the CHR. In fact, the CHR fully endorses the enactment of the proposed legislation, including the creation of the special committee on HRD’s protection.

  8. Representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), of which the NTF-ELCAC is a component; the Department of National Defense (DND); Department of Justice (DOJ); Philippine National Police (PNP); and Presidential Human Rights Committee were invited and consulted during the meetings of the Committee on Human Rights and the subsequent Technical Working Group session.