THERE is an urgent need to establish and operationalize the Barangay Human Rights Action Center (BHRAC) with a functional Barangay Human Rights Action Officer (BHRAO) in order to realize the mandate and intention of Republic Act 9745 otherwise known as the “Anti-Torture Act of 2009” and in accordance with other human rights’ laws and international covenants on human rights where the Philippine is a signatory.

With the above backdrop City Councilor Faustino Olowan has introduced a proposed ordinance entitled, “An Ordinance Reinforcing Resolution Numbered 371, series of 2011 entitled, “Urging all barangays in the City of Baguio to establish and rationalize a barangay human rights action center (BHRAC) and to train a barangay human rights action officer (BHRAO),” by directing all barangay officials in the City of Baguio to create and/or operationalize the BHRAC with “functional” barangay human rights action officer in their respective barangays as mandated by law and providing the fund of one million two hundred and eighty thousand pesos therefor to be taken from the savings of the 2018 annual budget of the city government.”

As explained by councilor Olowan in his proposed measure the intention of the ordinance is to establish an effective institutional mechanism for every barangay in the City of Baguio which will receive and refer complaints of human rights violations within their respective jurisdictions and to include the monitoring of such violations to further realize the intention of the Philippine Human Rights’ Laws and other International Agreements on human rights.

Under the proposed Ordinance aside from the operationalization of the BHRAC and the BHRAO an oversight committee is also created to monitor compliance with the provisions as well as implementation of the proposed measure.

The said oversight committee shall be headed by the City Mayor as chairman and the with the chairperson of the Committee on Law, Human Rights and Justice of the City Council as Vice-chairman and to include the following members: (a) the head of the Commission on Human Rights Office, Baguio city, (b) the respective chairpersons of the Committee on Public Protection, Safety and Peace and Order and the Committee on Barangay Affairs of the City Council of Baguio.

As to the amount of one million two hundred and eighty thousand pesos proposed to be appropriated for the program this shall be equally divided among the one hundred and twenty eight barangays in the City of Baguio during the initial phase of implementation and thereafter such sums as may be needed shall be appropriated for the continued implementation of the said proposal.

Councilor Olowan justified the proposal to operationalize the BHRAC and the BHRAO citing Section 11 of R.A. 9745 which mandates the creation and recognition of an operational barangay human rights action center with a functional barangay human rights action officer, thus allowing victims of human rights or other interested parties to seek legal assistance from the said BHRAC nearest them as well as from human rights non-government organizations.