MANILA — A lawmaker on Wednesday refuted the claims of the anti-communist task force that the approval of the proposed Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Act would protect terrorists and their supporters.
According to Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., the passage of the measure will not hinder the government's efforts to combat terrorism.
The lower chamber's human rights committee, which Abante chairs, approved House Bill 77 or the Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Act last month.
"Pagka minsan itong NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) ay sobra kung mag-accuse eh. I think they should be more objective on this," Abante told ANC's "Rundown".
The lawmaker stressed that the country needs a law that seeks to protect human rights defenders from red-tagging, threats and reprisal in relation to their work or activities.
"The advancement of human rights and the security of the state are not mutually exclusive, neither are they anathema to each other," Abante said.
"We do not have to choose between human rights and security. The promotion of the former does not erode the latter.
"Our democracy is strengthened when we promote human rights side by side with efforts to ensure the security of our citizens," he added.
In a statement Monday, the NTF-ELCAC said "the bill’s amorphous and overbroad definition of a 'human rights defender' can qualify almost any criminal, rebel, terrorist or enemy of the State as a 'human rights defender'".
If passed into law, the bill will also make several laws to combat terrorism as "toothless paper tigers," the task force added.
But Abante said the distinction between a human rights defender and a terrorist is clear.
He said Section 4 of the HB 77 defines a human rights defender as "any person who, individually or in association with others, acts or seeks to act to protect, promote or strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms and welfare of the people at the local, national, regional, and international levels."
Meanwhile, Section 3 of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 defines a terrorist individual as any person who engages in the following:
- Acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangers a person's life;
- Acts intended to cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place or private property;
- Acts intended to cause extensive interference with, damage or destruction to critical infrastructure;
- The development, manufacturing, possession, acquisition, transportation, supply, or use of weapons, explosives or of biological, nuclear, radiological or chemical weapons; and
- Release of dangerous substances, or causing fire, floods, or explosions.