MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 24, said that he will not allow his men to be investigated for wrongdoing by the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) or the Office of the Ombudsman – if not cleared with him.
“Kapag sinabi ko na huwag kayo magpa-imbestiga, huwag kayo papa-imbestiga,” Duterte said during a press conference following his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The tough-talking President said he will scrutinize all moves to hold soldiers and policemen accountable for human rights violations.
He also urged the Ombudsman to “refrain from citing them for contempt because I have the authority to give the final say whether they attend or not.”
The two institutions are constitutional bodies that are independent of the other branches of government, such as the Executive.
But the President looks at it differently.
“Iyong CHR, iyong opisina dito, you are better abolished, I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated,” he said. “Remember this, human rights commission, you address your requests through me because the armed forces is under me and the police are under me, kaya kapag kinwestiyon mo sila for investigation, dumaan muna sa akin (If you question them for investigation, you better go through me).”
This is consistent with his previous pronouncements of taking responsibility for law enforcers. For example, in May 2017, Duterte said that he is accountable for the consequences of the martial law implementation in Mindanao. (READ: Duterte: 'I alone' responsible for martial law aftermath)
Duterte also called on the national human rights commission to investigate the ambush on members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Arakan, North Cotabato on July 19.
“Imbestigahan muna ng CHR iyong ambush, iyong sa PSG, kapag wala kayong report niyan, huwag niyo kaming guluhin diyan,” he said. “Itapon ko ulit iyan sa mukha niyo. Better do an equal job here.”
(CHR should investigate the ambush against the PSG. If you do not have a report, do not mess with us. I will throw at on your face. Better do an equal job here.)
Duterte’s request goes against the primary mandate of CHR. According to the 1987 Constitution, CHR is expected to investigate alleged human rights violations perpetrated by state actors or the government. (READ: Things to know: Human rights in the Philippines) – Rappler.com
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.