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New human rights caucus calls for gov't action on violations

FIGHT VS ABUSES. Officials from the Commission on Human Rights and civil society organizations call for solidarity and action against human rights violations in the Philippines. Photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

FIGHT VS ABUSES. Officials from the Commission on Human Rights and civil society organizations call for solidarity and action against human rights violations in the Philippines.

Photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) launched a consultative caucus with civil society organizations (CSOs), calling for "direct and effective" government action to address violations, including those committed under President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

The CSO-CHR Consultative Caucus for Human Rights (C4HR) aims to be "an inclusive, strategic, and collaborative response to the pressing human rights and social justice issues." (READ: Things to know: Human rights in the Philippines)

"We will leverage the complementary roles of the CHR and CSOs to pursue common objectives through active, consultative, and inclusive engagement; mindful of the constitutionally-guaranteed independence and autonomy of the CHR, and the diversity and independence of civil society," the caucus said in a statement on Thursday, December 7. 

Its objectives include raising public awareness of human rights, coordinating action among stakeholders to promote and defend these rights, and upholding the 1987 Constitution. 

Aside from these, C4HR also aims to endorse evidence-based data on human rights violations to the CHR and other law enforcement agencies.

CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said that this initiative, launched ahead of International Human Rights Day on Sunday, December 10, is a welcome development in fostering "more regular mechanisms of dialogue and partnership." 

"We look forward to making this mechanism more institutionalized and we take the goals and objectives seriously," he added. 

Human rights organizations have long been the subject of threats as they continue to call out alleged violations in Duterte's bloody anti-drug campaign. Even the President himself threatened to have human rights advocates shot for "obstructing justice." (READ: 'Demonizing' human rights in the first year of Duterte) 

Rosa Trajano, secretary-general of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), said they will continue to work against violations despite threats.

"As human rights defenders, naghahanda kami at nag-aaral na protektahan ang aming sarili. But we will not stop, promise iyan and challenge – na kahit sino pa ang magpahinto sa aming kilos, hindi kami hihinto lalo na ngayon na malakas kami kasi sama-sama kami," she said.

(As human rights defenders, we are ready and we are learning how to protect ourselves. But we will not stop, that's a promise and a challenge – whoever wants to stop us, we will not allow them to especially now that we're stronger because we're acting together.) 

Aside from PAHRA, initial convenors of the caucus include:

Gascon urged other civil society organizations to join the fight against abuses.

"We extend this invitation to all organizations to join us in this mechanism so we can work together more," he said. – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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