CHR to become independent body in proposed charter
Ghio Ong (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will be known as an independent constitutional commission which will probe not only rights offenses committed by state agencies, including soldiers and policemen, but also by private entities, although it will not have the power to prosecute them.

Most of the members of the consultative committee (Concom) reviewing the 1987 Constitution moved during yesterday’s en banc session for the passage of this provision that would amend the CHR’s current mandate.

Sixteen of the members, including Concom chairman and former chief justice Reynato Puno, voted in favor while only Ferdinand Bocobo voted against.

Former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr. abstained from voting as he has a relative working in the CHR, while Fr. Ranhilio Aquino and lawyers Reuben Canoy and Victor dela Serna were absent.

In the proposal, the CHR would investigate human rights violations done by both the state agencies and so-called “private actors.”

The proposed amendment also talked of violations to socioeconomic and environmental rights, the latter being proposed to be included in the Bill of Rights, as among those that CHR is mandated to probe. The current CHR mandate only probes violations of civil and political rights.

Also proposed by the Concom is the inclusion of representatives from the marginalized sector, the indigenous people and environmental advocates in the composition of the CHR.

Although its mandate is expanded, the rights body would still have no power to prosecute possible human rights offenders as CHR chairman Chito Gascon pointed out that “prosecution is one of the primordial executive functions” and that the CHR is not an executive body nor does it belong to the executive branch of government.

He brought up though the “prospect of having a special prosecutor or a special section in the National Prosecution Service dedicated to human rights cases that will bring cases to either designated courts or specialized courts.”

In a radio interview, Puno explained that the amendments to the CHR’s mandate, to be later included as provisions to the proposed constitution shifting the government to a federal form, would make sure that the agency would “go after all violators” of human rights, “whether government or non-government actors.”

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