Bayan Muna representative urges passage to protect rights

BAGUIO CITY — While the world commemorates the 60th adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), human rights –related legislative measures in Congress remained un-acted on in the face of the country’s record of human rights violations.

Rep. Satur Ocampo refiled in the House legislative measures, which, if approved, would protect and enhance human rights as he alleged that the Philippines had the bloodiest human rights record among the so-called democratic states in Southeast Asia.

Ocampo, one of two Bayan Muna party list representatives to the House, is also the House Deputy minority Leader.

In an interview, Ocampo cited the following human rights-related bills that he re-introduced: HB 2263 entitled 2263 or the Anti-enforced Disappearance Bill of 2007, HB 2619 or the Anti-torture Bill of 2007, and the Marcos Compensation Bill, intended for human rights victims during the administration of the late ex-Pres. Ferdinand Marcos.

The two bills will penalize perpetrators of enforced disappearances and torture, where both are prohibited by the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution and various international instruments.

In the 13th Congress, the anti-enforced disappearance bill was approved by the House but not the senate while the anti-torture bill remained in the House Justice Committee, Ocampo added in an earlier interview.

The two bills have passed the Committee level of the House of the present 14th Congress, added Ocampo, and are awaiting introduction in the plenary.

He added the Marcos Compensation Bill had already been passed the Senate and is set for discussion on second reading.

Lately, Ocampo introduced a bill in the House to investigate in aid of legislation the events surrounding the enforced disappearance of Balao.

New bill to protect human rights defenders

As the present administration surpasses records of human rights violations of her predecessors, Ocampo urges the passage of a bill to protect human rights defenders who had been victims of state atrocities.

House Bill 5600 is known as the Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Act of 2008.

“Human rights defenders are killed, harassed and impeded by the state security forces from fully doing their work across the country despite the state’s responsibility and duty to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” explained Ocampo in a statement sent to the media.

Earnest measure

He added that Congress could act in earnest on this measure as part of efforts to fulfill its obligations as a signatory to the UDHR adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

Human rights advocates in the region believed these important legislative measures would experience rough sailing in Congress, but urged the people to fight for their rights using various international instruments like the UDHR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Bill of Rights under the 1987 Constitution. The Philippines was a signatory of the UDHR, ICCPR, and ICESCR.

“The vibrancy of human rights’ enforcement and defense is a hallmark of a dynamic democracy. In this light, a law protecting human rights defenders and penalizing any violations of their rights in the pursuance of their advocacy must be immediately enacted for the effective elimination of all violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Ocampo called.

According to Karapatan, a national human rights alliance, there are 977 victims of extra-judicial killings since Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took to power in 2001.

Ocampo pointed out, the present administration tagged human rights defenders as “enemy of the state” citing among those advocates slain in pursuance of their human rights advocacy Eden Marcellana, Eddie Gumanoy, Leima Fortu and Benjamin Fernandez.

Karapatan recorded the following cases this year alone: Three enforced disappearances, seven frustrated killings, nine illegal arrests and eight illegal detention.

Its regional counterpart Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) recorded this year three cases of desecration of place of worship or offending religious sites, 19 cases of illegal search and seizure, three cases of bombings and shelling, eight cases of using schools, medical center other public places and residences as military camp, and the enforced disappearance of James Balao. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)


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