Bill protecting persons displaced by natural calamities, armed conflicts clears House

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez

Akbayan Rep. Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez III speaking during a House Committee Hearing.

 

A bill protecting the rights and welfare of persons displaced by natural calamities and armed conflicts has cleared the House of Representatives and now awaits the Senate version of the bill for consolidation.

The Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Bill, also known as House Bill No. 4744 , has been approved on third and final reading on Tuesday evening, in what Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said was ‘a positive step in the right direction’ towards the institution of legal safeguards for the rights and welfare of the victims of internal displacement.

Gutierrez, who is a principal author of the bill and Chair of the Technical Working Group (TWG) that consolidated the IDP bills, lauded the swift action of the House in approving the bill, which he said is ‘critical step forward’ for the proposed legislation towards becoming a law.

“The approval of the measure is a strong reaffirmation of the commitment of both the House and the government to ensure that each person who become victims of internal displacements due to natural calamities and armed conflicts are fully protected,” the lawmaker said.

“For too long, the victims of arbitrary internal displacements are left to fend for themselves, with inadequate government support, due to lack of legal support on how the state should handle their plights. And because they [the victims] need to survive, they become increasingly vulnerable to ill-treatments and exploitation of unscrupulous people who generate profits from their helplessness,” Gutierrez added.

House Bill 4744, which is a landmark human rights legislation, seeks to develop a comprehensive government plan that would respond to the increasing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country, in the light of recurring natural disasters like typhoons and armed conflicts.

The proposed legislation reaffirms the basic rights of the IDPs and sets out the mandates and roles of the state towards to the protection and promotion of these rights, in order to expedite the recovery and normalization of the lives of the victims.

“Through this bill, these individuals, also known as (IDPs), are provided adequate protection and care by the government, assured of their human rights and dignity and protected from all form of abuses and exploitations that will help fast-track their recovery,” Gutierrez said.

“This landmark bill will also serve to support the efforts of the government to effectively promote human rights and human rights-related reforms, particularly during disasters,” he added.

Senate counterpart

Gutierrez also urged the Senate to swiftly and immediately pass its own version of the bill to ensure that this proposed law will eventually become a ‘reality’.

“We look forward to gaining the support of the members of the Senate on this important legislation that will ensure the quick approval of the Senate version of the bill,” Gutierrez said.

The lawmaker added that Sen. Koko Pimentel, who is also the Chair of the Senate Committee on Human Rights, had signified in earlier dialogues his interest to file the same version of the bill passed by the House.

Hope for ‘no veto’

In May 2013, an earlier version of the bill was vetoed by the President, saying that a number of its provisions are ‘in conflict with the Constitution’.

Aquino said that its provisions on damages ‘unlawfully differentiates between displacements caused by security agents of the State and other entities’. He also objected to granting the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) the power to determine damages incurred against IDPs, whic he said impinges on the exclusive power of the Judiciary. He added that the bill goes against the non-suability character of the state.

Gutierrez expressed hope that the current bill will not suffer the same ill fate that the previous bill underwent in the 15th Congress.

“During the painstaking deliberation of the provisions of the bill, we have constantly engaged concerned agencies of the government such as the Department of Justice (DoJ), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). The legal issues raised in the previous Congress were also given due considerations,” he said.

“Through this collective effort, we look forward to the bill eventually turning into a law that will duly serve the needs of the people in times of internal displacements,” he concluded.###

Remembering Hope

THROWBACK: Remembering Hope. To mark the 5th death anniversary of Pres. Cory Aquino, here’s something Rep. Barry wrote then.

A Heap of Broken Images

Two Saturdays ago, I heard of Cory Aquino’s death and was rather surprised to find myself deeply affected. I was gripped by a feeling that was part sadness, part nostalgia, and part… something else. It took me a while to identify what that “something else” was, but eventually I recognized it for what it was — the faint, bittersweet remembrance of youthful hope.

Cory Aquino’s presidential campaign and the popular uprising that followed it 23 years ago probably means a lot of things to different people. But for me, it will always be the time that I fell in love, fatally and irrevocably, with the idea of what our country could be.

I suppose it was unavoidable that my impressionable 12-year old mind would become enamored with the excitement for change that so charged the air then. Cory’s candidacy at the time did not only represent something better than…

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