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CHR ready to work with Duterte

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it is ready to engage and work with newly installed President Duterte.

“The CHR congratulates President Duterte on his inauguration to high office and wish him much success in pursuing his mandate. The CHR looks forward to engaging with his administration on human rights as we each must do what we must,” said CHR chairman Chito Gascon.

Gascon issued the statement minutes after Duterte, in his inaugural speech in Malacañang, called on the CHR and Congress to mind their work and let him mind his.

“Allow us a level of governance that is consistent to our mandate,” said Duterte, adding that he knows the limitations of his office.

In response, Gascon said they are heartened with Duterte’s affirmation to adhere to due process and rule of law in addressing issues that he will face during his incumbency.

“Such is all we hope and expect as this proceeds from the solemn oath he took,” added Gascon.

Duterte had been at odds with the human rights body over numerous issues in the past, more recently on his rape remark that resulted in a CHR resolution that found him liable for violating the Magna Carta of Women.

At one point, he called Gascon an “idiot” and stressed that he will not follow any directive from the CHR chairman.

Gascon, meanwhile, stressed that they are merely fulfilling their functions as mandated by the Constitution.

“He’s not inclined to cooperate with us, but we will not stop trying. Human rights is far too important as an issue and as an agenda that when he says he does not want to talk to us, we’ll give up,” he added.

In a recent interview with The STAR, Gascon said he would welcome an opportunity to meet with the President.

“He’s the Chief Executive, the head of state. I know he’s a busy person. I’m willing to wait, if the opportunity presents itself,” Gascon said.

While he is willing to meet with the President, Gascon said he is also not ruling out the possibility that the Chief Executive will ignore him and his office.

“If he chooses not to meet with me, I will not have sleepless nights about it. I will make every effort to engage his government, the different departments, the police, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, anyone who’s prepared to listen or even those who are not prepared to listen, so long as they have an impact on human rights, we will continue to press,” he added.

The creation of the CHR was prescribed by the 1987 Constitution that was crafted after the fall of the dictatorship.

Gascon said he will not step down from office and would continue to fulfill his function until the end of his term in 2022.

Muscle

Incoming Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya said yesterday that the military would provide the muscle to Duterte to give him the much-needed strength and power to lead the country.

Visaya said there would always be groups opposing Duterte’s plans and programs to bring meaningful change in the country.

“There will always be spoilers when changes are being instituted and the most effective agents to arrest them are the law enforcers that include the AFP,” Visaya said.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983, Visaya will be replacing acting AFP chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, his classmate at PMA, in today’s turnover rites that Duterte will preside over in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The AFP, coinciding with the command turnover rites between Visaya and Glorioso, will also welcome and honor Duterte with the traditional parade and review as the new commander-in-chief of the 125,000-strong military. 

Lawmakers’ approval

Congressmen said yesterday that the President’s inaugural speech is a portent of things to come under his administration.

“It was direct to the point. President Duterte’s speech is a glimpse of what we should expect from his administration: straightforward but unpretentious,” Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said.

“It summarizes his policy against crime and corruption, on foreign policy and on the peace process. It is short but powerful in inspiring our people to unite and bring their faith back to the government. It is a reminder that change is coming and change starts today,” he said.

Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas said Duterte’s reassurance that his administration is committed to honor ongoing government contracts and international treaties “is a positive indication that his is indeed a government of the people and by the people.”

Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado said Duterte “delivered a powerful and inspirational speech calling us to join his crusade to fight crime and corruption and push for genuine reforms.”

Former Leyte congressman Martin Romualdez described the President’s inaugural address as “concise and direct to the point.”

Senators gave positive comments on Duterte’s inaugural speech, where he said Congress should mind its own business as he does his work in Malacañang.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said Duterte “bookmarked the breadth of the things he initially wanted to do, balancing audacity with the guarantees that his administration won’t go overboard in pursuing them.”

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara thought his speech, as well as that of Vice President Leni Robredo, were simple yet meaningful.

Sen. Loren Legarda said Duterte was right and has the political will to cut the bureaucracy and redundancy in government.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III said Duterte’s message resonated to Filipinos because he was able to zero in on the people’s as well as the business community’s concerns.

The senators also saw nothing wrong with Duterte’s remarks that Congress should “mind its own business” as he performs his duties as president.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he would fully support Duterte’s initiatives that will benefit the nation.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said it was good that Duterte clarified that he would not interfere in the functions and duties of legislators.

Militant groups support Duterte

Leftist groups yesterday trooped to the Don Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola bridge) and for a change expressed support for the new administration.

“On this historic day, we march to Mendiola with high hopes that the next administration would deliver on its promise of change, and for the next generation to attain peace based on justice. We march to Mendiola to advance the People’s Agenda for Change,” said Renato Reyes, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general.

At least 3,000 activists marched to the historic bridge a few blocks away from Malacañang where Duterte took his oath as the 16th president of the Philippines yesterday.

He said Duterte won the presidency and proved the people’s rejection of the failed leadership of the Aquino administration.

“We laud Duterte for his desire to pursue peace talks with the National Democratic Front to address the root causes of armed conflict in the Philippines. We welcome his favorable announcements on the release of political prisoners through amnesty,” he said.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said, “We are hopeful that change in policy would be done in government, and at the same time we impose this challenge of heeding the call of the marginalized people.”

Members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) raised their most significant demands to the new presidency that include land distribution, free irrigation services and return of the coco levy fund to farmers. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Rhodina Villanueva, Evelyn Macairan, Jaime Laude, Ghio Ong, Manny Galvez, Roel Pareño

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