UN official urges passage of PH law protecting human rights defenders

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 25) — United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor called on the national government to enact into law the bill seeking to protect human rights defenders.

During the 52nd Regular Season of the UN Human Rights Council in Switzerland on March 23, Lawlor highlighted that human rights defenders are being attacked, killed, and harassed in the Philippines.

"The killings of defenders are rarely investigated which increases the vulnerability of those who remain active while undermining the human rights community's confidence in the justice system," said Lawlor in her speech.

The still unnumbered bill that proposes protective measures for human rights defenders in the country was approved by the House Committee on Human Rights in February. Similar bills were also filed during the 17th and 18th Congress.

Lawlor also noted that the Philippine government should comply with human rights treaties and standards.

"As we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, I couldn't think of no better way that the Philippine government could show its value, its worth, than adopting and implementing this act. It definitely would show commitment to the work of human rights defenders," she said.

Moreover, the UN special rapporteur told the Philippine government to probe the disappearance of community organizer Steve Abua, who was last seen in November 2021.

"In January 2022, I wrote to the Philippine government regarding the disappearance of human rights defender Mr. Steve Abua, a peasant leader who advocates for land rights and human rights of peasants and national minorities, particularly in Central Luzon," said Lawlor.