Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called on the Senate leadership to act with dispatch on several legislative measures aimed at protecting the rights of people to human dignity and reducing social, economic and political inequalities in the country.
De Lima said she hopes that these measures would also be given priority as part of the Senate’s contribution to the global celebration of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) throughout 2018.
“I urge my colleagues to take a serious look at these pending measures as our humble contribution to the global campaign of raising awareness about the importance of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70 years ago,” she said.
“The clamor for a human rights regime resonates not only in the Philippines but also elsewhere around the world where the principles of human rights are undermined, and the defenders of human rights are harassed and incarcerated,” she added.
As a signatory to the UDHR, the Philippines has ratified eight core human rights treaties and six optional protocols, along with many other key human rights and humanitarian conventions and treaties.
As a founding member of the United Nations Human Rights Council since 2006, the Philippines has been sitting as member for consecutive terms from 2007 to 2010 and from 2011 to 2014, and is now bidding for another term for 2019 to 2021.
De Lima, who once chaired the Commission on Human Rights, pointed out that the country should continue to assert its leadership in human rights fronts not only internationally but also, most especially, domestically.
“We should heed the incessant call from the international community of human rights advocates that we as a member-state should lead by example and uphold the highest standards in promoting and protecting human rights,” she said.
The Senator from Bicol then urged the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights chaired by Sen. Richard J. Gordon to move forward the country’s human rights agenda by calendaring the legislative measures long pending before his committee.
“I call on Senator Gordon to take this special opportunity of pushing for important measures aimed at advancing the cause of human rights in the country. I’m confident he will heed growing clamor to push forward these pending bills,” she said.
“I have filed several bills and resolutions that will help ensure equal access to justice for all at the same time strengthen the rule of law. I also hope that he will finally start public hearings on these legislative measures I filed,” she added.
Of the total number of bills and resolutions referred to the Senate Justice and Human Rights Committee, De Lima noted that 24 bills and 11 Resolutions remain pending while 1 resolution is still pending on second reading.
Among the pending bills at the committee include an Act punishing extraordinary heinous crimes with the penalty of qualified reclusion perpetua (Senate Bill No. 368), an Act defining extrajudicial killing (SBN 117), an Act protecting the rights of refugees and stateless persons (SBN 1854), and an Act strengthening the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines as the national human rights institution (SBN1230).
As to the pending resolutions, De Lima noted these include the Resolutions directing the committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the reported violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Mindanao after a year of martial law imposition (Senate Resolution No. 768), and into the state of detention facilities in the Philippines (SRNs 97 and 590), among others.
In September 2016, De Lima sent a formal communication to Gordon requesting him to give priority to SRN 97 she filed a month prior. Last April, she also urged the committee to address the issue concerning overcrowded detention cells and act on the resolutions she filed but her call remains unheeded.
The former justice secretary said the apparent inaction on these crucial pieces of legislation is untenable and regrettable because problems, such as killings, injustices, state abuses and prison congestion, continue to plague the present administration.
De Lima, a staunch advocate for human dignity, has led a Senate investigation into the spate of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration’s murderous war on drugs barely two weeks since she assumed office.