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STRENGTHEN CHR VS ‘CULTURE OF IMPUNITY’ — ABANTE

Measures to prevent tragedies like the Ampatuan Massacre and other human rights abuses in the country are among the top priorities of the House Committee on Human Rights.

This was stressed on Friday by House Committee on Human Rights Chairperson Benny Abante, Jr. as he emphasized the need to adopt measures that would help combat what he referred to as “the culture of impunity.”

Abante pointed out that the involvement of powerful elected officials and even members of the police “is proof that if we allow the culture of impunity to rule unchecked, it can have tragic and fatal consequences.”

“As I said in my privilege speech earlier this week, we need to be proactive and implement a human rights-based approach to legislation, and adopt a whole of nation approach to human rights policies, plans, and programs of action,” said the Manila representative.

“Two crucial measures,” said the legislator, “involve those intended to strengthen the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and to protect those involved in protecting human rights advocates.”

In a privilege speech delivered at the House of Representatives, the lawmaker revealed that the Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Act and legislation strengthening the CHR were among the eight priority measures the Committee on Human Rights planned to pass in the 19th Congress.

According to Abante, “we must act now and not wait for another Ampatuan Massacre to claim innocent lives.”

Thirteen years ago in November 2009, 58 men and women––including 34 journalists––were murdered in the Amapatuan Massacre, often referred to as the single deadliest event for journalists in history.

Ten years after the tragedy, former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan were convicted of 57 counts of murder and sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole. Twenty-eight of their co-accused, including police officers, were also convicted of 57 counts of murder and sentenced to 40 years.

“HR advocates, with proper support, could help rip out the weeds of impunity before they take root and spread.”

Abante pointed out that the involvement of powerful elected officials and even members of the police “is proof that if we allow the culture of impunity to rule unchecked, it can have tragic and fatal consequences.”

Abante said “HR advocates, with proper support, could help rip out the weeds of impunity before they take root and spread.”

“Our focus should be finding ways to develop  an environment that promotes respect for human rights, and we can begin by empowering its advocates and protecting HR champions.”

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