MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appointed lawyer Richard Paat Palpal-latoc, former Malacañang deputy executive secretary for legal affairs as new chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
The CHR, on Tuesday, September 27, confirmed the appointment of the 48-year-old chairperson. His appointment paper was signed by the President on September 15.
Palpal-latoc’s appointment was confirmed the same day the commission announced Beda Epres as its new commissioner. The new chairperson will serve until 2029, since CHR commissioners and chairperson have seven-year terms under the Executive Order No. 163.
With Palpal-latoc’s appointment, the CHR will finally have a head after being led by its caretaker, Executive Director Jacqueline de Guia, since May 2022.
Before the May 9 elections, the CHR’s fifth en banc, composed of appointees by the late president Benigno Aquino III, ended their seven-year term. Late CHR chairperson Chito Gascon did not finish his term after he succumbed to COVID-19 in October 2021.
As new chairperson, Palpal-latoc will oversee probes on alleged human rights violations against the marginalized and vulnerable sectors. Among his biggest challenge is keeping the independence of the commission from the executive – where he directly served under Marcos Jr.
Experienced government official
Palpal-latoc served in various capacities in the government. In 2020, he was assistant prosecutor at the Quezon City prosecutor’s office. He also served in various positions at the Office of the Ombudsman and at the Department of Social Welfare field office in Calabarzon.
Like Epres, Palpal-latoc served as Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer under the Ombudsman.
Outside government work, the new chairperson has a good private career, according to the CHR. He is a trial lawyer and a partner at the Rodriguez Esquivel Palpal-latoc Law Firm.
Palpal-latoc is an alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas, finishing his degree in Philosophy degree in 1995. He attained his law degree in 2001, and was accepted to the Bar in 2003.
Most recently, the new CHR chairperson conducted Malacañang’s probe into sugar importation mess.
Reaction from former CHR chair
Former CHR chairperson Etta Rosales, in a statement, said she is “gravely concerned” about Palpal-latoc’s appointment.
“I am gravely concerned that the newly appointed Chairperson is someone with no demonstrated track record or training in human rights issues. This is a setback not only for the agency itself, but [also for] the victims of human rights violations in the country,” Rosales said.
According to Rosales, there are many other human rights lawyers in the country who are suited to lead the CHR and “many of them [are] hailing from within the commission itself.”
The former CHR chairperson also challenged the Marcos Jr. appointee to truly fulfill his mandate of leading the commission.
“The commission you now lead was created in response to Martial Law, one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history. Our people have suffered under a culture of impunity for far too long. Lives have been lost, families grieve, and the institutions meant to protect the ordinary citizen have now become instruments that are turned against Filipinos and our democracy.” – Rappler.com