Malacañang 'respects' fixed terms, opinions of CHR officials

EMBATTLED CHR. Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon has been the subject of President Rodrigo Duterte's tirades. File photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

EMBATTLED CHR. Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon has been the subject of President Rodrigo Duterte's tirades.

File photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Though some of the Duterte administration's allies in Congress voted for a P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Malacañang says it respects all constitutional commissions.

During a Palace news briefing on Thursday, September 14, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan also said Malacañang respects the opinions of all heads of agencies, whether or not they are consistent with President Rodrigo Duterte's own views.

"The Palace respects the opinions of the different heads of agencies, including constitutional commissions," said Ablan.

CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon has often been critical of the Duterte administration's war on drugs, prompting the President to say the commission is "better abolished."

Ablan said it's only "natural" that Duterte be angered by Gascon's statements but that this doesn't mean the administration will go against the Constitution which created the CHR.

"Of course, anyone in the same position would feel a little slighted if the opinions differ. That's very natural for every human being. But the official policy is they're appointed for a fixed term, we respect the fixed term," said Ablan.

Gascon, added the Palace official, was using his right to free speech in voicing out his thoughts on the drug war.

"This is a free country and so we respect the opinons of the different heads of agencies," said Ablan.

The House of Representatives voted to allocate only P1,000 for the CHR for its 2018 budget after House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the commission isn't doing its job. He also said if CHR wants a bigger budget, Gascon should resign.

He begrudged how the CHR receives funding when its heads constantly criticize the administration. (READ: After getting P1,000 from House, CHR hopes for 'rational minds' at Senate)

Critics, however, pointed out that the CHR, as mandated by the Constitution, is supposed to call out government bodies when they are suspected of human rights violations.

Duterte said the CHR "had it coming" since its officials had angered members of the lower chamber. However, he said he is not out to destroy institutions created by the Constitution.

"Since it is really an organ of government – it's [in] the Constitution – maybe someday, they might review their decision. Me, I'm not here to destroy institutions," he had said last Tuesday, September 12.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday that he supports full funding for the CHR, citing their contribution in ensuring no human rights abuses are perpetrated by the military. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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