Palace backs CHR probe on Duterte

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang indirectly expressed its support yesterday for the plan of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate reports of human rights violations committed by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said the CHR “is doing its duty to determine the truth behind any alleged human right violation.”

“We recognize that every citizen has a constitutionally and legally protected right,” Coloma said in Filipino. “This includes the right to live and to be given due process in any legal action.”

Coloma did not mention the independence of the CHR as a constitutional body separate and distinct from the executive branch. The CHR is currently headed by a former stalwart of the administration Liberal Party (LP).

Malacañang has always distanced itself from cases handled by co-equal branches of government such as the judiciary and legislature, or independent constitutional bodies like the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Elections. 

“As a democratic country, we will abide by the principle of the rule of law,” Coloma initially said in Filipino in his regular weekend interview over state-run radio station dzRB.

Jose Luis Gascon, an LP director general prior to his appointment as CHR chairman, is identified with standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II who is trailing behind his other rivals in surveys for the May 2016 presidential elections, including the pace-setting Duterte.

In the run-up to the 2016 polls, the Comelec’s first and second divisions have disqualified Duterte’s fellow leading presidential candidate,   Grace Poe, from running for lack or residency requirements and for being a foundling.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, who ranked third, believes he will be jailed before the elections.

In a media forum Saturday, Gascon said they are reviewing their records to see if there are cases filed against Duterte, who has reportedly executed around 700 people based on a report of Amnesty International.

However, Duterte told supporters and the media last week at the Comelec that the AI report was inaccurate because he had actually killed 1,700 people.

The CHR chief, whose appointment was endorsed to Aquino by Roxas, said there should be a thorough investigation into Duterte’s public pronouncements.

However, the CHR has no power to prosecute, Gascon said.

“We’re now looking at records to see if there are facts from the ground that relate to the statements and if there are that relate to statement made publicly, then we call on the Department of Justice to fully investigate this matter,” he said.

Gascon called on the police and the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate, but that it would be hard to look into Duterte’s possible human rights violations based on his statements. “All we have are numbers that came from public admissions,” he said. “We have numbers but no details so how do we begin the investigation?”  

Gascon said Duterte’s alleged victims or their families should come forward to file complaints.

“We want them to come forward and we will offer them protection so that we can get to the bottom of this,” he said.

“No one is above the law, not even the president of this country is above the law. We have to establish a system of rule of law.”












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