Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the opposition against the bill protecting human rights defenders

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the opposition against the bill protecting human rights defenders

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) reiterates it support for the enactment of the Human Rights Defenders Act in view of the increasing reports of serious risks and dangers faced by human rights defenders, as well as the prevalence of impunity for violations and abuses against them.

The past years have been a testament to the need to protect human rights defenders. For standing up for the rights of the weak, vulnerable, and marginalised, they have often faced vilification, red-tagging, violence, and, worse, even death. This finding is supported by the results of the the CHR inquiry on the situation of human rights defenders in the Philippines published in 2020. [1] At the same time, there is also an international recognition for the role of human rights defenders in advocating for the full respect for human rights and the rule of law. [2]

Instead of spreading fear, CHR believes that it would be more productive for other stakeholders to have an open and genuine dialogue with the advocates of the said bill, human rights defenders, as well as with the CHR, to eliminate any doubt and address misunderstanding on what the proposed legislation seeks to achieve and the realities that it seeks to address.

The CHR believes that the State has a legal and moral obligation to ensure protection of human rights defenders as they contribute to the development of the country in a democratic and peaceful way. We hope that the government will not evade this obligation and, instead, work on improving the bill should there be any concern in any of its provisions. In the end, human rights defenders should not be seen as foes. What we should collectively address are issues of impunity, corruption, and abuse of power that further disempowers the most vulnerable. ###

[1] CHR Report on the Situation of the Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines (2020), bit.ly/CHRHRDreport

[2] UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, https://bit.ly/3JnMUZd