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NCCP welcomes House passage of bill for the protection of human rights defenders

Press Release
January 18, 2022

QUEZON CITY – The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), through its General Secretary, Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, welcomed yesterday’s passage of House Bill No. 10576 or the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act on its third and final reading. “The passage of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act is a positive step forward in upholding the rights of those who are working for the protection of God’s Gift of human dignity,” Bp. Marigza stated.

“For the NCCP, the defense of human rights is an integral part of our Christian witness and mission and we have supported this Act since it was introduced in the previous 17th Congress and we are glad that legislators of this 18th Congress finally voted in favor of its passage,” the Protestant leader added.

“In recent years, the state of human rights has sharply declined and the NCCP has observed various forms of human rights violations and more vicious patterns of attacks against human rights defenders, including church people, several of which are our pastors and lay members. We are also concerned over the rampant red-tagging and we are alarmed over the freezing and/or monitoring of bank accounts of church-designated sanctuaries, NGOs and humanitarian actors,” Bp. Marigza said.

“When rights defenders have fallen victims to violations and abuses, who will now defend the defenders? We thus call on our Senators pass the counterpart Senate Bill No. 179 filed by Senator Leila de Lima,” the Bishop added.

The Human Rights Defenders Protection Act or House Bill No. 10576 is a consolidated version of House Bills No. 15 filed by Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman, No. 161 filed by Quezon City Sixth District Rep. Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte, and No. 240 filed by the Makabayan bloc composed of representatives from partylists Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers, Kabataan and Gabriela Women’s Party.

The House Bill defines the rights and freedoms of human rights defenders (HRDs) in the Philippines and aims to institute measures that will protect them. This was approved by the lower house chamber on January 17, 2022 with 200 affirmative votes, zero negative, and no abstention.

The NCCP is the largest aggrupation of mainline Protestant and non-Roman Catholic churches in the Philippines.