Department of Justice

Department of Justice launches its own human rights office

Jairo Bolledo

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Department of Justice launches its own human rights office

DOJ. The building of the Department of Justice in Manila.

Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Justice Secretary Boying Remulla says the launch of the office 'serves a clear call for human rights promotion and protection for the years to come'

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday, December 4, launched its own Human Rights Office (HRO).

The DOJ launched the HRO along with its Gender and Development and Special Protection Office. In his speech read by Undersecretary Brigido Dulay, DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla noted that Republic Act No. 9201 or the National Human Rights Consciousness Week Act of 2002 mandated all government agencies, including the DOJ, to raise awareness on basic human rights.

“With the DOJ’s launch of its very own HRO and GSPO, I can confidently say that this mandate will be fulfilled by the DOJ not only for a week, but the whole year round. It serves a clear call for human rights promotion and protection for the years to come,” Remulla said.

Department Circular No. 32, dated July 14, created the DOJ HRO. According to the circular, these are some of its functions:

  • Formulate and recommend DOJ’s human rights action plan in accordance with the agency’s mandate and in compliance with the commitments to international human rights treaties
  • Serve as the DOJ’s coordinating office in matters related to human rights and as the DOJ’s contact point in all human rights-related projects with other institutions
  • Ensure and monitor that the DOJ is compliant with its rights-based obligations, which include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among others

Among the striking functions of the DOJ’s new office is its supposed transparency. The department circular mandates the DOJ HRO to do the following:

  • Assess and monitor the human rights mechanism standards in the DOJ and its attached agencies, and recommend policies, including legislative measures, to effectively implement human rights laws, rules, and regulations
  • Keep and maintain a repository of records and data relating to human rights programs, activities, and projects of the DOJ and its attached agencies
  • Develop and publish relevant data analytics and advocacy materials on human rights

Similar offices were created in the past but seemed to have faded into oblivion. The Philippine National Police (PNP), among the agencies at the center of the drug war controversy, has a Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO).

The HRAO was created against the rights abusers within the PNP and in response to the allegations of extrajudicial killings during the administration of then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It was envisioned as “a management facility to oversee the implementation of PNP guidelines and policies on human rights laws.”

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PNP has a human rights office, but what has it done?

PNP has a human rights office, but what has it done?

Over a decade since its creation, a Rappler report noted that the PNP HRAO was criticized for its lack of power and effort. Often, the office’s human rights campaigns are limited within the organization itself.

The DOJ has a different take on certain human rights issues, specifically on the rights of activists. After the killings of activists in Calabarzon in 2021, the DOJ, through the Administrative Order No. 35, ordered the filing of murder complaints against 17 cops over the death of veteran labor leader Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion.

AO 35 created a special government panel that investigates politically-motivated killings. But two years later, in 2023, the DOJ dismissed the complaints against the cops for insufficiency of evidence. –

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  1. ET

    An appreciation to DOJ Secretary Boying Remulla. It is hoped that this action will not be merely a public relations activity or, in other words, “for show only (FSO).”

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.