By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the former solon of the Lone District of Ifugao joined the demand to respect and protect the rights of activists to air their views and issues.
On August 9, CHR spokesperson Jaqueline De Guia condemned the attack on Brandon Lee and stressed that “constant attacks on the country’s human rights defenders need to end.”
“We cannot continue to allow a culture of violence to fester in our society. This rhetoric, alongside the vilification of human rights as a concept, leads to violence against innocents,” she said in a statement.
Assassins shot Lee on August 6 in front of their house in Tongngod, Lagawe in Ifugao Province on August 6. He sustained four gunshot wounds and still in critical condition. He is a paralegal volunteer with the Ifugao Peasant Movement and correspondent for Northern Dispatch, a Baguio-based online news site. The military tagged Lee, along with other activists in the province, of being members of the communist rebels.
The Commission emphasized that “activists, lawyers, or government workers” must be able to “work and exist without risk of violence at every turn.”
Meanwhile, former Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat, Jr., in a Facebook post day after the shooting, said that violence should not be the norm.
According to him, the indigenous means to resolve issues on “ideologies, political persuasions and advocacies” should be through “dialogue and non-violence.”
“Let’s stop harassing, stifling and killing activists. Let’s condemn attempts to label activists and human rights advocates as rebels, terrorists or saboteurs,” he said.
The former solon added that defending human rights and the environment are part of a democratic system.
“We want peace more than war, dialogue more than fighting. For all sides, let tolerance and peace reign,” Baguilat said.
Pass HR Defender Bill
De Guia also said in the statement that the recent attack against Lee further underscored the need to enact a law that will protect human rights activists.
“These numerous acts of violence prove the immediate need for a law that will safeguard human rights defenders against senseless loss their lives and other forms of assault while fighting for the rights and dignity of every Filipino,” she said.
De Guia stressed that it is the obligation of the government “to make sure that human rights defenders and activists can do their work without fearing for their safety, and the safety of their family and loved ones.”
On June 3, the House of Representatives passed House Bill (HB) No. 9199 or the Human Rights Defender Protection Act, sponsored by Representatives Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Edcel Lagman of Albay, and Cheryl Deleso-Montalla of Zambales.
The legislation intends to institute mechanisms to protect and promote the rights and freedom of human rights defenders in the country. It defined rights defenders as any individual that works for the protection, promote and realization of human rights, and the people’s fundamental freedom and welfare.
The approved version is the consolidation of the HB 1617 and HB 8128 introduced by the Makabayan Bloc in 2016 and Lagman in 2017 respectively. The Senate has yet to adopt or passed a similar bill. Senate Bill No. 1699, filed by detained opposition senator Leila De Lima in February 2018, is still pending at the committee level. # nordis.net