CHR chief won’t quit
Despite suggestions that he resign, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon refuses to throw in the towel and vows to continue performing duties mandated by the Constitution.
“I will, to the best of my ability, perform my lawful mandate as head of an independent non-partisan constitutional office given the duty to protect and promote human rights in this country,” Gascon said in a statement on Thursday.
“I will continue to do so without fear or favor and shall always speak truth to power,” Gascon said in response to chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo.
Panelo had earlier suggested that Gascon resign because he was biased in the performance of his duties.
Panelo made the suggestion after President Duterte remarked in a press conference after his State of the Nation Address on Monday that the CHR was “better abolished.”
When he was mayor of Davao City, Mr. Duterte was investigated for alleged human rights violations.
While the claims were revived when he was campaigning for the presidency, no charges were filed against him.
Since then, Mr. Duterte has repeatedly complained of the bias of the agency, noting that the CHR was quick to fight for the rights of criminals but slow to “raise a whimper” in cases of law enforcers killed on duty.
Gascon, however, said “none of my previous or future actions in public office would ever be motivated by vengefulness, vindictiveness, or subjectivity.”
The CHR will “always abide by constitutional and human rights precepts in the performance of our duties as we shall keep faith that truth and justice shall ultimately prevail,” he added.
“Secretary Panelo should focus on his job of trying to give the best legal advice he can muster for the Office of the President as I will do what I can in doing my job as best as I can,” Gascon said.
Gascon also reacted to Mr. Duterte’s remark that CHR was “better abolished,” saying the abolition of the CHR would require an amendment to the 1987 Constitution.
“Any discussion to abolish CHR or any other institution for that matter can be taken in the proposed constitutional reform process,” he said, adding he would “cross the bridge when we get there.”
Gascon said Mr. Duterte’s statements removed “any doubt regarding the attitude his administration will take toward respecting the human rights guarantees enshrined in the Constitution.”
“The actions during the first year of his presidency coupled with his words said over the same period exhibits an utter disregard for due process, equal protection, and other civil liberties. This has encouraged the deepening of impunity,” Gascon said.
Gascon said Mr. Duterte’s pronouncements “encourage the security forces to act beyond established operations protocols without any attendant safeguards or effective accountability mechanisms to guard against abuse.”
Vice President Leni Robredo also opposed Mr. Duterte’s suggestion to abolish the CHR because it would strip ordinary Filipinos, especially the poor, of protection against abuses.
“If the CHR is abolished, it’s as if we’re really not giving protection to those who have long been suffering in our society,” Robredo said in a school building inauguration in Calabanga, Camarines Sur province.
Robredo said the agency was purposely created and enshrined in the 1987 Constitution because of the country’s experience with human rights abuses at the hands of the government.
“It is enshrined in our Constitution because of our experience with human rights abuses, which our own government officials have committed,” she said.
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