House OKs bill protecting human rights defenders

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 3) — The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to prevent abuses against human rights defenders.

The chamber's 183 members unanimously passed House Bill 9199 or the "Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill," which defines the rights and freedom, as well as obligations of those promoting human rights protection.

Under the proposed measure, a human rights defender is defined 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."

The bill grants the following rights and freedom to human rights defenders:

Right to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms

Right to form groups, associations, and organizations

Right to solicit, receive, and utilize resources

Right to seek, receive, and disseminate information

Right to develop and advocate for human rights ideas

Right to communicate with non-governmental, governmental, and intergovernmental organizations

Rights against vilification

Right to access, communicate, and cooperate with international and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms

Right to participate in public affairs

Right to peaceful assembly

Right to represent and advocate

Right to freedom movement

Right to privacy

Freedom from intimidation or reprisal

Right to establish a sanctuary for human rights victims and or their families

Freedom from defamation and stigmatization

Right to exercise cultural rights and to development of personality

Right to effective remedy and full reparation

The bill penalizes those who will violate the rights and freedom.

A human right defender's obligations, meanwhile, include conducting investigation; adopting human rights based governance; strengthening protection program; promoting and facilitating human rights education, among others.

The bill proposes the creation of a Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee, chaired by a commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and six members who will be jointly nominated by concerned civil society organizations.

It requires the government to respect, protect and fulfill the rights and freedoms of human rights defenders, as well as impose appropriate sanctions to counter impunity.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.