Press Release
January 19, 2022

De Lima lauds House approval of HR defenders bill, urges colleagues to swiftly pass Senate counterpart measure

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima commended the House of Representatives for the passage on third and final reading of a measure seeking to promote and protect the rights of human rights defenders (HRDs) whose lives remain under threat, especially under the present administration.

De Lima, author of its counterpart measure, or Human Rights Defender Protection Bill in the Senate, urged her colleagues to take the cue and recognize the urgency of passing into law her proposed Senate Bill (SB) No. 179, which has been pending at the Committee level since July 2019.

"I congratulate my fellow Bicolano lawmaker, Rep. Edcel Lagman, for the passage of the Human Rights Defenders Bill in the House of Representatives," she said.

"I call on my colleagues in the Senate, especially Committee on Justice and Human Rights Chairman Richard Gordon, to do our part. This bill has been languishing in the Committee long enough. Let us approve this measure that protects our HRDs. They are our partners in nation-building. It is time for us to give them the recognition and protection they deserve," she added.

A total of 200 legislators reportedly voted to approve House Bill No. 10576, or the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act authored by Lagman, on third and final reading last Jan. 17. No one voted against or abstained on it.

It can be noted that this is not the first time the House approved the bill protecting HRDs. In June 2019, legislators already passed a similar bill but did not prosper as Senate did not pass a counterpart.

De Lima's Human Rights Defender Bill, initially filed in February 2018 during the 17th Congress, gathered dust in the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It also remains unacted upon this 18th Congress.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, maintained that the continued red-tagging, demonization, abuse and attack by public officials and law enforcers on HRDs "diminishes us as a democracy and as human beings."

"Human rights defenders are our advocates, community organizers, labor leaders, environmentalists, and in many instances, protectors of our people. Our HRDs serve our people directly.

"Our HRDs listen to their grievances, address their concerns and take part in the solution," she said.

"The HRDs serve the most marginalized and oppressed sectors in our society. They deserve our gratitude, our support, and, at the very least, our respect. They should never be met with disdain, much less hostility," she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol aims to institutionalize and enforce state obligations to provide protection to HRDs, and to establish effective legal remedies for violations of their rights.

Under SB No. 179, there will be an independent collegial body, to be known as the Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee, responsible for protecting human rights defenders from intimidation and reprisals and for ensuring accountability for acts of intimidation against them.

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