Attack vs activist in Ifugao underscores need for passage of rights defenders bill

Attack vs activist in Ifugao underscores need for passage of rights defenders bill
This file photo shows a protester holding a placard that says, "Uphold human rights."
The STAR / KJ Rosales, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — The attack against a human rights defender in Ifugao highlights the need to immediately pass a bill seeking to prevent violations and abuses against rights activists, the Commission on Human Rights said Friday.

Brandon Lee of the Baguio-based Cordillera Human Rights Alliance was shot in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao on Tuesday evening.

Lee, also a paralegal volunteer of the Ifugao Peasant Movement and a contributor to online paper Northern Dispatch, was reportedly in critical condition. He was among the activists tagged by the military as alleged supporters of the New People’s Army in 2015.

In a statement Friday, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia called for an end to the attacks against human rights defenders.

“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. Whether they are activists, lawyers or government workers, it is important that they can do their work and exist without risk of violence at every turn,” De Guia said.

She stressed that the “numerous acts of violence” prove that a law that will safeguard human rights defenders against loss of lives and other forms of assault is needed.

“It is equally part of the government’s obligation 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,” De Guia said.

In the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives approved Human Rights Defenders Protection Act. The counterpart measure in the Senate, however, collected dust in committee-level.

Sen. Leila de Lima and Rep. Edcel Lagman refiled their versions of the proposed measure. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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