Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a bill seeking to teach students in the basic and higher education levels about basic human rights principles, especially the respect for human dignity and life of individuals.
De Lima, a known human rights defender in the Senate, has filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1497 institutionalizing human rights as a separate and specialized subject in for elementary and high schools, and college levels.
"In a time when human rights are violated on a daily basis, it is but the State's responsibility to protect every citizen against human rights abuse both by state and non-state actors," she said.
De Lima cited a study of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) - United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which recommended the inclusion of human rights as a separate subject in academic institutions.
She pointed out that Human Rights Education (HRE) has been encouraged by various international human rights instruments, many of which were ratified by the Philippines
Among these instruments are the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
"This measure adopts the recommendation of the CHR-UNDP study to deepen HRE by institutionalizing human rights as a separate and specialized subject in both basic and higher education," she said.
"Even with the K to 12 Program now in place, HRE is still merely incorporated in various existing subjects from Grades 1-12," she added.
Under SB 1497, HRE is defined as training, dissemination and information efforts aimed at building of a universal culture of human rights through the imparting of knowledge and skills and the molding of attitudes.
De Lima, who once served as CHR chairperson, said the implementation of an HRE curriculum in schools is important to enforce the Philippine government's commitment to uphold the human rights treaties.
"It is important to note that the Philippines was among the signatories to the World Programme for Human Rights Education of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which is focused on integrating human rights education in the primary and secondary school systems," she added.
The measure mandates the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to formulate their respective curricula and the course program for human rights studies.
The human rights curriculum shall focus on personal values, attitudes and behaviors that promote personal responsibility for respecting, upholding and protecting human rights, among others.
De Lima also filed Senate Bill No. 1230, also known as the Commission on Human Rights Charter Act, which seeks to include mandatory continuing education on human rights for law enforcement, and security personnel.
Source: Senate of the Philippines