Con-com votes to make CHR an independent constitutional body
The Consultative Committee (Con-com) tasked to review the 1987 Constitution on Monday voted to elevate the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to an independent constitutional body in the draft Charter that they would propose to President Rodrigo Duterte.
Voting 16 in favor, one against, and one abstention, the recommendatory body ruled that CHR be an independent constitutional body, which is also consistent with their proposal to expand the coverage of the CHR mandate and jurisdiction to include:
- not just state actors but also non-state (or private) actors;
- the second (socioeconomic) and third generation (environmental) of human rights, which are also proposed to be made part of the Bill of Rights.
“The elevation of the CHR to the level of constitutional body is consistent with our desire to expand its coverage to include the socioeconomic and environmental rights which are to be enshrined in the Bill of Rights, and to include non-state actors, as well in its jurisdiction,” former Chief Justice Puno, chairman of the Con-com said in a statement.
The Con-com said the elevation of the CHR to the level of a constitutional body would involve “strengthening its investigative powers and expanding membership to include representatives from, among others, the marginalized sector, indigenous peoples and environmental advocates.”
“The inclusion of a representative of the marginalized sector is also necessary because the socioeconomic rights are for the benefit of the poor and marginalized sector of society,” Puno said.
The changes are also intended to enhance the CHR’s fiscal autonomy.
It does not, however, include the grant of prosecutorial powers, which the CHR was not keen on being given.
“So to give the CHR that function may create a complication because if it were to serve as a watchdog on the state duty with respect to human rights and it is given powers to prosecute human rights violations, then the question is who will watch the watchdog,” CHR Chair Chito Gascon told the panel during his April 3 presentation.
Under Article IX of the 1987 Constitution, only the Commission on Audit (COA), Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) are listed as constitutional commissions.
The Con-com said it wanted to make CHR a constitutional commission similar to the three independent constitutional bodies. /je
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