A UN expert on human rights has urged the Philippines to enact its new bill into law, which will protect the human rights defenders in the country.

“Enacting legislation at the national level is an important means by which states can recognize the work of human rights defenders and create robust mechanisms for their protection,” Mary Lawlor, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in a statement released on Thursday night.

She called on all members of the Philippines Congress “to get behind this praiseworthy initiative.”

Bills for the protection of human rights defenders have been filed in the two chambers of Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Last June, the UN statement said, the bill passed its third and final reading in the House of Representatives.

Also, corresponding bills have been filed during the current session of the Congress.

“Once approved by both chambers of Congress, any legislation would then be sent to the [Philippines] president for final approval,” it added.

“In my recent report to the Human Rights Council [UNHRC], I highlighted the extremely serious risks faced by those peacefully defending human rights around the world, including in the Philippines, and documented the legislative efforts already made by some states to protect them,” said Lawlor.

“By prioritizing legislation to protect human rights defenders, the Philippines would join that group and send a clear message about their willingness to uphold their human rights obligations.”

Rights situation went from bad to worse’: Investigators

The UN statement came after a report by a group of investigators on alleged rights violations in the archipelago country.

Early this week, the investigators of the Investigate PH group asked the UNHRC for more action as it alleged that the “rights situation went from bad to worse” in the Philippines.

“There is strong evidence that domestic remedies for the many cases of human rights violations in the Philippines are insufficient and even illusory,” the group said.

The 198-page report triggered a severe response from the presidential palace.

Martin Andanar, the secretary of the Philippines Presidential Communications Operations Office, termed the report “malicious.”

“We strongly disagree with the malicious report by Investigate PH on the human rights situation, and the policies and programs of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his administration,” Andanar said on Twitter.

Duterte’s reign has seen severe criticism over his war on drugs besides other allegations.

Last July, Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 — said to be “a measure that seeks to give the country more teeth to curb terror threats and acts.”

Rights groups and some lawmakers have raised concerns that the bill — which amends a 2007 law — could worsen human rights abuses in the country.

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