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Rights groups hopeful new CHR appointees will be independent, transparent

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Rights groups hopeful new CHR appointees will be independent, transparent
This 2021 handout photo shows community leaders and volunteers in the Save San Roque alliance outside the Commission on Human Rights office in Quezon City. Supplied
Save San Roque handout photo

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights groups called on the new appointees of the Commission of Human Rights to uphold the constitutional body’s mandate and to show independence and transparency in investigating violations involving civil and political rights.

The CHR has so far announced the appointments of lawyers Richard Palpal-latoc and Beda Epres as the commission’s chairperson and commissioner, respectively. President Ferdinand Marcos has yet to name three more CHR commissioners.

Palpal-latoc was a deputy executive secretary for legal affairs under the Office of the President. He also worked at the Quezon City Office of the Prosecutor, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Office of the Ombudsman. Epres also served in the Office of the Ombudsman as an investigator.

The sixth commission en banc will serve from 2022 to 2029.

READ: Former Palace official named new CHR chair

"Karapatan calls on the new appointees to uphold the commission’s mandate and expectations for independence, probity, integrity, and transparency to conduct investigations on human rights violations against poor and disadvantaged sectors, and provide prompt, responsive, accessible and excellent public service for the promotion and protection of human rights," Cristina Palabay, the group’s secretary general said.

Palabay urged members of the new commission en banc to hold perpetrators of human rights violations in the government accountable and to ensure that government policies from which the violations emanate are addressed.

She added the commission is also expected to pursue an independent role and voice amid the investigations by the International Criminal Court and the scrutiny into the country’s human rights situation in the UN Human Rights Council.

"Nevertheless, we will continue to engage with the incoming new members of the commission especially in pursuing justice and accountability of the previous Duterte administration and in the continuing defense of people’s rights, welfare and dignity," Palabay said.

READ: Former Ombudsman investigator is new CHR commissioner

‘No human rights work’

Human Rights Watch criticized the appointment of Palpal-latoc as the new CHR chair, calling him a "loyalist lawyer with no discernable experience in human rights work."

"Chairman Palpal-latoc will have a steep hill to climb to demonstrate that he deserves to sit in that chair, and that he knows up from down about the Philippines’ international commitments on human rights," HRW Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said.

Robertson also hit the appointment process, saying that Marcos failed this "important early test" about his commitment to human rights.

"The appointment process was totally opaque, lacked any sort of consultation, and raises fundamental questions about whether Marcos is embarking on a process to gut the CHR as an independent and impartial body empowered to investigate rights abuses without fear or favor of those in power," he added.

The CHR was created as a response to the atrocities committed during Martial Law.

Marcos and his clan have yet to acknowledge the atrocities committed during his dictator father’s regime, and publicly apologize to the victims and their families.

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