‘Rody can’t abolish CHR without amending Constitution’

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) cannot easily be abolished as it will require an amendment to the 1987 Constitution.

The CHR responded to President Duterte’s threat that he would seek the abolition of the CHR as it only investigates military and police personnel who discharge his orders but refuses to probe human rights abuses committed by criminals.

“And when the time comes, ‘yung CHR, ‘yung opisina dito (that CHR, that office), you are better abolished…I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated. Remember this, Human Rights commission: you address your request through me because the Armed Forces is under me and the police is under me,” Duterte warned during a press briefing after his  second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Duterte also claimed that the CHR has become one-sided in its investigations, and urged the body to investigate the ambush of the Presidential Security Group and the attack against the six policemen in Negros Oriental. 

“Do not make it a one-sided affair. I will not allow it. As President, I will not allow it. We are equal. Justice for all… If you have not yet investigated the deaths of my police and military men, then do not f*** with us,” he warned.

The CHR reminded Duterte that under the 1987 Constitution, the commission is mandated to investigate all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights in the country. It is tasked to monitor the government’s compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights.

CHR chair Chito Gascon also reiterated that the commission is not a law enforcement agency, unlike the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“It is not part of the mandate of the CHR to implement laws that will stop criminality. We are the watchdog of the abuses of the government,” the commission said.

“The CHR has a constitutional mandate and will continue with its responsibilities of fact-finding and documenting of human rights violations as well as inform the public about the importance of human rights in society.

“Any discussion to abolish CHR or any other institution for that matter can be taken in the proposed constitutional reform process. In other words, we shall cross the bridge when we get there,” it added.

The CHR also released infographics explaining the difference between their role and that of law enforcers.

The CHR said every government agency has an obligation to protect the rights of the people, such as the PNP on the right to life and property, the Department of Health on the right to health and the Department of Education on the right to education.

“It is the responsibility of the CHR to protect the rights of the people from abuse by state agents such as the government, police and the military. The CHR is mandated to ensure that the government will not abuse and violate its duty to protect the primary rights of the people,” the agency said in Filipino.

“But if it is the state that violated the human rights, it is the responsibility of the CHR to act as the conscience of the government,” it said.

Gascon said Duterte’s latest threat only shows his utter disregard for due process, equal protection and other civil liberties.

“This has encouraged the deepening of impunity, particularly because he encourages the security forces to act beyond established protocols,” he added.

PNP, AFP chiefs want to abolish CHR

Both Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa agree with Duterte’s call to abolish the CHR.

“I’m just being practical. With or without CHR, we can do our job properly without violating the human rights of the people. With or without them, we don’t need them to watch over us,” Dela Rosa said in a forum yesterday.

“I agree with Bato. Maybe it is not needed because every time we take oath of our office, the most important that we quote is to defend and protect the Constitution. What is the most important part of the Constitution? It is the Bill of Rights,” Lorenzana said in the same forum.

Under Dela Rosa’s watch, the PNP has been linked to summary killings, including the kidnapping and murder of a South Korean businessman right inside Camp Crame, the PNP’s headquarters, last year.

The CHR has repeatedly criticized the summary killings under Duterte’s war on illegal drugs.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales also slammed Duterte for goading people to kill drug offenders to solve the narcotics problem in the country. 

Duterte on Monday warned Morales to refrain from citing soldiers and policemen in contempt because he has “the authority to give the final say whether they will attend or not.”

“Everything has to go through me…Whoever you will investigate, you have to course it through me. You address it to the Department of the Interior and Local Government…If I say do not allow yourself to be investigated, you will not allow yourself to be investigated,” he added.

The President also dared Gascon to join the security forces operating in battle-ravaged Marawi City.

“Sino ‘yang g*** na ‘yan sa CHR? Sino ‘yan (Who’s that fool in CHR)? Chito Gascon. Sige. Ikaw magpunta doon. Ikaw ang mag-direct sa traffic, saan sila magpasok (Go there and direct the traffic and tell them where to go),” Duterte said. 

“Bring them back and we won’t interfere…If you believe in human rights, Gascon, go ahead, go there or withdraw the military.

“Lead those who will enter the area. ‘Pag may namatay diyan, ikaw ang talian ko sa poste doon. Practisan ka ng mga sundalo how to improve their accuracy (If somebody dies there, I will tie you to a post and allow my soldiers to use you for target practice to improve their accuracy),” he added. 

Duterte further threatened that the Philippines would have problems if he clashes with the ombudsman and the CHR.

“Takot-takutin nila ‘yang ano…So huwag ninyo akong pilitin na pati kayo, babanggain ko (They will threaten…So do not force me to fight you, too),” he said.

The President has instructed the military and the police to wait for his clearance.

“If you don’t get the clearance, do not stay in the barracks. Pag hulihin kayo, papiliin mo lang (If they try to arrest you, just let them choose). Bazooka or M-16,” Duterte said.

Leni: human rights important

Vice President Leni Robredo underscored yesterday the importance of human rights and the rule of law, following Duterte’s latest tirade.

“We believe in the President’s objective to combat crime, but we just don’t agree on the same approach,” Robredo said in an interview in Quezon City.

“I believe that in the implementation of the anti-drug campaign, and in the strengthening of peace and order, there should be no violation of human rights,” she added. 

In his SONA on Monday, Duterte warned anew of his “unrelenting” war against illegal drugs despite “international pressures.”

“The fight against illegal drugs will continue because that is the root cause of so much evil and so much suffering that weakens the social fabric and deters foreign investments from pouring in,” Duterte said.   –  With Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado, Helen Flores, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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