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MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo countered President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat of abolishing the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), a threat he made during his recent state of the nation address (SONA).
Robredo, a human rights lawyer herself, reiterated the CHR’s importance in protecting the public from abuses.
“Nakapalaman ito sa ating Konstitusyon dahil sa mahabang karanasan natin ng human rights abuses, na ang nagko-commit sarili nating mga government officials, ang nagko-commit mga kawani ng gobyerno,” Robredo said in an interview in Camarines Sur on Friday, July 28.
(This is enshrined in our Constitution because of the long history of human rights abuses committed by our own government officials and other state agents.)
“Kung i-a-abolish iyong CHR, parang lalo nating hindi binibigyan ng proteksyon iyong mga dati nang naghihirap sa ating lipunan,” she added. (READ: Robredo renews call to uphold human rights, rule of law after SONA 2017)
(If the CHR is abolished, it’s would be as if we were not protecting the poor people in our society.)
Duterte mentioned in his SONA on Monday that the constitutional body is better abolished. The President made this remark as he said that he will not allow CHR to investigate the police and the military without his consent. (FULL TEXT: President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address 2017)
The CHR is among the staunchest critics of Duterte’s war against drugs and the extradjudicial killings that have resulted from it.
Rappler sources confirmed the agency, together with another critical body, the European Union, was not invited to the SONA.
But Malacañang said they were invited but declined to attend.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Thursday accused CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon of failing to be an objective head of the Commission. Panelo said Gascon should also investigate violations of other people and not be selective.
“He should have the decency to resign,” Panelo said. Gascon responded to this by telling Panelo to “focus on his job.”
Created under the post-Martial Law 1987 Constitution, the CHR is tasked to investigate all forms of human rights abuses. It’s abolition will take an amendment of the Constitution.
The CHR chief may only be replaced once his term ends or impeached. Gascon’s term ends May 2022.
Duterte’s conflict with the CHR also stems from an investigation begun in 2009 when then-chairperson and incumbent senator Leila de Lima investigated the infamous Davao Death Squad.
De Lima, another Duterte critic, is currently detained in Camp Crame after being accused of coddling drug lords inside the New Bilibid Prison during her term as justice secretary. – Rappler.com