July 19, 2024

Amid various complaints related to red-tagging, threats, and harassment, the city council committee on laws and human rights has filed a proposed ordinance establishing protective mechanisms for human rights defenders in the city.

The city council approved the proposed ordinance on first reading last April 17 during its regular session.

According to Councilor Peter Fianza, chairperson of the committee, human rights defenders and progressive groups in the city have experienced human rights violations such as political vilification, unfounded red-tagging and terrorist-labeling, harassment, and intimidation.

He said these incidents had been reported to the city government and Commission on Human Rights.

Fianza said activists and human rights groups in the city such as the Cordillera Youth Center, Tongtongan ti Umili, Youth Act Now Against Tyranny Baguio-Benguet, and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance have been seeking redress and lobbying to the city council since 2018 for policies and programs protecting and promoting human rights in the city. 

The proposed ordinance seeks to protect human rights defenders in the city while awaiting the enactment of a human rights defenders’ law. 

“Baguio City commits itself as a safe space for everyone, nurturing vibrant democracy and good governance,” Fianza said.

The ordinance, once enacted, shall declare the rights and freedom of human rights defenders in the city. 

These rights and freedom are the right to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms; right to form groups, associations, and organizations; right to solicit, receive, and use 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;

Right 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 privacy; freedom from intimidation or reprisal; right to seek or establish a sanctuary for human rights violation victims and their families; and

Freedom from defamation and stigmatization; right to exercise cultural rights and development of personality; and right to effective remedy and full reparation.

The ordinance shall also impose the obligations of public authorities in protecting human rights defenders in the city. 

These obligations include providing free access and promote materials related to human rights and fundamental freedoms; securing the non-disclosure of the sources used by human rights defenders; preventing human rights violations and ensuring protection from intimidation or reprisal; penalizing intimidation or reprisal;  desisting from derogatory and unfounded labeling; ensuring protection from arbitrary or unlawful intrusion and interference; not participating in violating human rights and fundamental freedoms; assisting in investigation; adopting human rights based governance; and promoting advocacies related to human rights.

The protective mechanisms for human rights defenders under the ordinance have four components. 

The first component is the coordination and cooperation among the city government and CHR-Baguio field office, and civil society organizations for the streamlining of human rights education and investigation of complaints on human rights violations.

The second component is the establishment of a sanctuary for high risk human rights defenders, human rights violation victims, and their families. 

The third component is the provision of psychosocial assistance for high risk human rights defenders, human rights violation victims, and their families.

The fourth component is the campaign against derogatory and unfounded labeling.

Under the ordinance, freedom parks shall be identified. These declared freedom parks may be used for peaceful assemblies.

The ordinance also contains provisions on community-based campaigns on human rights and human rights defenders; integration of activities under this ordinance into the City Development Plan and Local Youth Development Plan; and commemoration and memorialization of human rights defenders and human rights violation victims. – Jordan G. Habbiling