MANILA, Philippines – "He had it coming."
President Rodrigo Duterte said the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Chito Gascon had overstepped its bounds in actively investigating human rights abuses in the Philippines, angering congressmen in the process and causing the House to vote for a 2018 budget of P1,000 for the CHR.
Speaking at a press conference early on Wednesday, September 13, after visiting a wake at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Duterte explained that Gascon "opens his mouth in the most inappropriate way and (the way) he conducts the business of being CHR, walang alam (he knows nothing)."
"Yan galit ang mga congressman. Ako wala akong ano sa kanya," he added. (That's why congressmen are angry. I have no quarrel with him.)
"When you are an investigating agency, and you are empowered to investigate... itong gagong Gascon na ito, nakikialam pa doon sa during the incident. Huwag kang pumasok diyan!" (this stupid Gascon, he keeps meddling during the incidents. Stop meddling!)
Saying Gascon was not a lawyer, Duterte explained that Gascon had a tendency to come along during investigations. He later added Gascon's actions made him act like the police as well as the judge when it came to human rights violations. (READ: Accountability and human rights: The role of the CHR)
Duterte said the CHR should be geared more towards observing and collating data, making studies, and filing appropriate recommendations. (READ: After getting P1,000 from House, CHR hopes for 'rational minds' at Senate)
"Pero kung makihalo ka doon sa pulis, makipagkalkal ka rin, then pagdating doon sa opisina mo, there is a foregone conclusion already. (But if you mix in with the police and do the digging yourself, then when you get to the office there is a foregone conclusion already.) How are you supposed to be neutral?" Duterte said.
Duterte added, "If you are not sure of yourself, or where you stand, you might as well just, maybe, shut up."
Duterte 'not here to destroy institutions'
The president, however, said the P1,000 budget may have been done out of spite.
As the CHR is a constitutional body, he added, "maybe some day we might review their decision."
"I'm not here to destroy institutions," he explained, saying Congress was likely angry with Gascon. (READ: Want bigger CHR budget? Alvarez says Gascon should resign)
Despite this, Duterte did show his displeasure towards the CHR's actions by saying he wanted to 'slap' Gascon.
Referencing the fighting in Marawi, he said Gascon issued a statement saying the CHR would send a human rights investigator to investigate government abuses. This prompted Duterte to say he was angry at Gascon as well because he was "obstructing a war" which has killed Philippine soldiers.
Duterte went on to say that any extension of the Marawi siege and the subsequent deaths of people in the area fell squarely on his shoulders. "Maawa kayo sa akin, marami akong isipin na burden. Karga ko lahat iyan." (Have mercy on me, I have a lot on my mind. I carry all of it.)
"It's not a simple matter of law and order existing in Marawi. It has so many consequences and implications." – Rappler.com