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Experts: Human rights defenders bill unnecessary, unconstitutional, pro-terrorist

The Human Rights Defenders bill being vigorously pushed by the Makabayan Bloc at the legislature “is unnecessary, unconstitutional and will only serve and protect the interest of terrorist organizations such as the CPP-NPA, several legal and human rights experts claimed during Wednesday’s special edition of the ‘virtual’ press conference of the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Undersecretary Severo Catura, NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson on International Affairs, Peace Process and Human Rights Concerns sais there are “many legal infirmities” to the proposed Human Rights Defenders’ Bill.

Catura believes, the proposed legislation “seeks to institutionalize in the government, groups that are known fronts of CPP-NPA-NDF” naming Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), which “shall become mandatory members of the so-called “Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee” that will be created once the law is enacted.”

Catura argues that even the United Nations (UN) does not have any pronouncement on who should be classified as “human rights defenders.”

“Human rights defenders is not a job title,” Catura explained, adding that defending human rights should be pursued by everyone in accordance with UN’s declarations. but should be done in a “peaceful manner.”

“What the UN has directly stated is that the government, police and military are the defenders of human rights,” Catura stressed.

He also questioned the motivations of the Makabayan bloc in pushing for the proposed legislation since the bill did not even have the courage to denounce the proven atrocities committed by Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs). “This is a travesty and mockery of human rights,” the official said.

Lawyer Marlon Bosantog, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for Legal Affairs and Indigenous People (IP) Concerns, cited the case of Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, a most wanted NPA leader that was killed during an encounter with government troops in Bukidnon, who is being readied to be “sanctified” as a freedom fighter by proponents of the bill . “For IPs, he (Madlos) was their butcher. But under the bill he can be defended,” Bosantog said, explaining that the bill could be misused and abused by leftists as a way to claim that human rights violators such as Madlos are the victims.

On the other hand, Lawyer Rhowee Buergo, a member of the NTF-ELCAC Legal Cooperation Cluster, said that the bill “must adhere to existing laws.” However, she said that the provisions of the bill “contradicts existing laws” like the Republic Act (R.A.) 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (AMLA), R.A. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) and R.A. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

Brig. Gen. Joel Alejandro Nacnac, director of the Armed Forces of the Philippines – Center for Law of Armed Conflict (AFP-CLOAC), stressed the bill “is not necessary,” because the country has already enough laws and the Constitution has enough measures and protections in place against human rights violations.

Nacnac added that this bill will be abused by “false claimants,” especially from the affiliated organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDF. “Congress should look into the backgrounds of the proponents of the one-sided bill.”

His former colleague, retired LtGen Antonio Parlade Jr, now Deputy Director-General of the National Security Council, revealed in various videos and photos several members of the CPP-NPA-NDF who claim to be human rights defenders.

Parlade showed photographs of members of Karapatan, such as Glendyl Malabanan and Alex Pacalda, actively participating in a weapons training exercise of the NPA while holding automatic rifles. He reiterated that many of the so-called human rights defenders are active members of CTGs. “Patunayan ninyo sa amin na ito ay legitimate na human rights defenders,” Parlade said.

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