HR bill faces rough sailing

TABACO CITY --- Admitting that the Senate version of the Human Rights Defenders and Protection (HRDP) Bill would face rough sailing, human rights advocates are still hopeful that it would eventually be passed by the 18th Congress.

Nilda Lagman Sevilla, chairperson of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND), last Friday last week urged senators to be discerning in passing the Senate version of the bill so that more human rights violations and abuses may be prevented.

Sevilla said: “I challenge the members of the Senate to be sensitive and independent and be on the side of the Filipino people, particularly the poor and marginalized who are generally the potential victims as we are now victims of economic and social rights.”

According to Sevilla jailed Senator Leila De Lima who is facing trumped illegal drug charges will refile her Senate version of the bill as soon as the 18th Congress resumes next month.

She, however, lamented that the bill to be refilled by De Lima would pass the “ eye of the needle” since the newly-elected senators are reportedly close allies of President Rodrigo Duterte who had sent the lady senator to jail.

She said that so far there are only six senators who are supportive to the bill, and that “we still need 10 more senators for the Senate version of the human rights bill to be passed.” She, however, said that they would strongly lobby even among the administration senators to be co-authors of the bill.

“We will try to get the support of Senators Grace Poe and Nancy Binay,” she said.

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading House Bill 9199, or the consolidated bill authored by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, Rep. Carlos Zarate, Antonio Tinio, Emmi de Jesus, France Castro, Arlene Broasas, Ariel Casilao, and Sarah Jane Elago.

Sevilla said the refiling of the bill under the House protocol would be considered as priority bill for passage in the 18th Congress.

Asked on the current status of human rights cases in the country, Sevilla, quoting Human Rights Violations data, said that there were 697 cases of killing of human rights defenders during the period 2001 to 2018, while Task Force Detainees of the Philippines documented 76 human rights violations affecting 333 HR detainees from September 2013 to September 2016.

She said 59 disappearances were recorded during the first three years of the Duterte administration. “Forced disappearances can be in the form of arrest and abduction perpetrated by agents of the state or persons of authority, a deprivation of liberty and the deliberate concealment of the whereabouts of the victims,” she said.

“Cases of forced disappearances started in 1977 (Marital Law) and it continues to happen today, ” she lamented.

Sevilla in introducing the proposed human rights bill during a youth forum here urged local government units in Bicol to craft their own ordinances regarding the protection of human rights.

Tabaco City Mayor Krisel Lagman Luistro in an interview said that the city sanggunian has already passed a resolution supporting the HRDP and it plans to pass a city ordinance to implement the HRDP.

Sevilla is the younger sister of Albay Rep. Lagman and Labor lawyer Hermon Lagman a “diseparicido” who was forcibly abducted by military agents in 1973.

Another brother, Filemon “Popoy” Lagman, a labor union leader, was assassinated inside the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman, Quezon City on February 6, 2001.