CHR sees potential in new human rights coordinating body

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CHR sees potential in new human rights coordinating body
Logo of Commission on Human Rights
Commission on Human Rights

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday welcomed the creation of a special committee on human rights coordination, saying the move is a positive step that can deliver real benefits. 

Malacañang issued last week Administrative Order (AO) 22 creating an inter-agency body tasked to enhance mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights. It operates under the existing Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC). 

The special committee is chaired by the executive secretary and co-chaired by the justice secretary. Its members include the chiefs of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which oversees the Philippine National Police, and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

In a statement, CHR Chairperson Richard Palpal-latoc said that an integrated government approach is crucial in addressing human rights issues in the country. 

“Through this coordinating body, we aim to see increased prosecution of cases related to the war on drugs and enforced disappearances, as well as the adoption of a comprehensive human rights-based approach in various government responses, particularly in counter-terrorism efforts, addressing red-tagging, and safeguarding freedom of expression,” Palpal-latoc said. 

The commission said it is optimistic that the initiative is “a step in the right direction and will yield concrete and meaningful results while prioritizing a whole of society approach—from consultation to implementation.”

The special human rights committee aims to continue the work of the United Nations Joint Program (UNJP) on human rights. 

The UNJP is a three-year program developed to implement the UNHRC's October 2020 resolution on capacity-building and technical cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. The initiative is set to expire in July.

CHR maintains independence

But for human rights groups, the newly-created body lacks the authority to effectively address the country’s human rights crisis. 

Human Rights Watch described it as “toothless” and Amnesty International Philippines called it an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. Karapatan said the new committee was merely “a tactic to evade accountability” for human rights violations.

Groups also noted the CHR, the Philippines’ national human rights institution, can handle what the new body wants to achieve.

In response to the rights watchdogs’ concerns, the CHR stressed it remains fully independent and committed to the fulfillment of its Constitutional mandate.

“Rest assured that the CHR will remain vigilant and committed to its fundamental role as the intermediary between the government and civil society organizations,” the commission said, adding it is open to participating in the coordinating body. 

CHR Commissioner Faydah Maniri Dumarpa believes the special committee on human rights coordination could lead to increased government support for the institution’s human rights efforts. 

“In line with the current administration’s thrust in promoting and safeguarding human rights principles in the country, we are hopeful that this will gain equal support for passing the CHR Charter bill,” Dumarpa said. 

“This will further strengthen the Commission’s mandate, enabling us to provide essential legal aid services, establish mechanisms for strategic litigation to ensure access to justice for victims of human rights violations, and advocate for vital legislation such as the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM),” she added.

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