MANILA – The National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Thursday expressed its opposition anew to the Human Rights Defenders bill, describing it as "dangerous" and potentially "unconstitutional".
The statement comes after the House of Representatives approved the bill on third and final reading last Monday, with 200 affirmative votes, zero negative, and no abstention.
House Bill 10576 or the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act seeks to grant human rights defenders the right to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms; form groups, associations, and organizations; solicit, receive, and utilize resources; seek, receive and disseminate information; and develop and advocate for human rights ideas, among others. A counterpart measure, meanwhile, is pending in the Senate.
Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for sectoral concerns, said the bill could "serve and protect the interest of terrorist organizations such as the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF)."
"This bill, if passed into a law, will open the floodgates of abuse and torment on our people by terrorists like the CPP-NPA-NDF and it will make the Anti-Terrorism Law that was recently declared constitutional by the Supreme Court ineffective and toothless," she said.
She said the NTF-ELCAC condemned “in no uncertain terms” the approval of the bill “that is dangerous as it is unconstitutional and labeled to mean the very opposite of what it pretends to be -- the Human Rights Defenders Bill.”
Badoy argued that the bill offers "a porous and overboard definition" of human rights defenders and that its basic premise is "the same basic premise of the CPP-NPA-NDF that the State is the No.1 violator of human rights."
"[It] is really hilarious that these pretend-legislators have arrogated unto themselves, through this ludicrous bill, the right to define who are and aren’t ’human rights defenders' -- a definition so porous in its broadness that even the ISIS, the Abu Sayyaf and of course, the CPP-NPA-NDF can be defined as human rights defenders," she said.
"And once identified as 'human rights defender, they will be exempt from sacrosanct laws of the land and cannot be touched by the Anti Money Laundering Council because looking into financial records of a 'human rights defender' will be a crime once this ridiculous bill is passed into law," she added.
Badoy said under the proposed measure, "human rights defenders cannot be identified as members of the CPP-NPA-NDF even if they are indeed members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and they will be exempt from Terrorism Financing Laws."
"How then can the government protect the Filipino people from terrorism if we cannot stop terrorism financing or take off masks of terrorists who pretend to be human rights defenders? This is a bill therefore that eradicates the notions of state, judiciary, and due process and bypasses government agencies and the laws of our land," she said.
"There is no other recourse, therefore, but for this bill to be junked," she added. (PNA)