Human rights an election issue – CHR exec

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
Human rights an election issue â CHR exec
Speaking with ‘The Chiefs’ over Cignal TV’s One News on Friday night, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said human rights is and should always be an election issue.
CHR Facebook Photo

MANILA, Philippines — With major social issues affecting the most basic rights of individuals, Filipino voters must support candidates with a clear human rights agenda in the upcoming elections, an official of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said.

Speaking with ‘The Chiefs’ over Cignal TV’s One News on Friday night, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said human rights is and should always be an election issue.

“People fail to realize that when we talk about the elections, the social contract theory is very much relevant. In exchange for votes, candidates promise to deliver services that pertain to human rights,” she said.

Human rights, she stressed, are aligned with many of the social issues that candidates promise to address during the campaign period.

“(When they commit) to have more health centers, that’s the right to health. They will be committing to more schools, that’s the right to education. They will be committing SSS, GSIS benefits, that’s the right to social security,” said De Guia.

“So definitely, human rights should be a main issue in the upcoming elections. We should vote wisely. We should make sure that those whom we elect will put forward a human rights agenda,” she added.

Peace and order, she stressed, should not be in conflict with human rights, citing a human rights-based approach to deal with crime and other related issues.

De Guia noted that the Philippine National Police has a human rights-based operational procedure that would ensure that human rights are protected while maintaining peace and order.

“There is a win-win approach in making sure that we are safe and yet the approach is human rights-based,” she added.

While major challenges still remain, De Guia noted an improvement in terms of understanding human rights.

“When Chair Chito (Gascon) started, we do remember that human rights – the very notion of human rights – was being attacked. It wasn’t understood by the public. Even the mandate of the CHR was also misunderstood by the public,” she said.

Gascon’s legacy

De Guia paid tribute to the late CHR chair, who passed away last Oct. 9 due to COVID-19.

The lowest of the low for him, she said, was when the House of Representatives voted to give the commission a P1,000 budget in 2017.

“He was quietly crying at that time,” De Guia recalled. “It would have been easy for him to back down, especially because some of the attacks against him were personal and below the belt. But I saw him standing his ground. I saw him going to work resolute to carry on.”

According to De Guia, Gascon’s tenure was one of the most difficult periods of the CHR, citing the rise of cases primarily due to Duterte’s war against illegal drugs.

“He rose to the challenge,” she said of the late CHR chair. “One of the highest points of his career was whenever we were able to help make a difference in the war on drugs.”

Meanwhile, following the drop in the global index on adherence to rule of law, the CHR yesterday said all individuals – including government officials – must be subject to the law and should be guided by its principles.

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