CHR focusing probes on gov’t? Our mandate is to watch those in power, says commission
MANILA, Philippines — Since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has been vocal about its concerns about possible rights violations in the law enforcement agencies’ conduct of the drug war.
CHR’s observations however were not taken lightly by administration supporters who have asked why the commission does not react to instances when state enforcers are the ones placed in danger during anti-drug operations. Some also questioned why CHR was not as vocal during the past administration as it is now.
But for CHR, this is just its role; Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia explained on Wednesday that their primary mandate is to monitor, observe, and watch over the state actors, and not those from the private sector.
“We have always stood for the respect and protection of the human rights and dignity of all. As such, we equally believe in making sure that all perpetrators of human rights abuses and violations should be made accountable for their offenses.
“CHR has repeatedly stressed, however, that the respect, protection, and fulfillment of human rights remains to be a primary obligation of the government,” De Guia said in a statement.
“CHR’s mandate is to be a watchdog, monitor, advocate, and educator of the government with respect to human rights. And just as the government has the primary obligation for our human rights, CHR primarily investigates State agents and representatives should they incur lapses and violations in their responsibilities,” she added.
De Guia’s statements were in response to Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta’s latest call for CHR to investigate all forms of human rights violations, including those not involving government officers and officials.
This is not the first time Marcoleta insisted that the commission should investigate rights violations done by terrorists, moving to give the constitutional office a measly P1,000 budget in 2017. Marcoleta back then also said that CHR was not a valid agency, despite the 1987 Constitution creating it.
De Guia answered Marcoleta’s call, saying that despite focusing on government, there were occasions when the commission probed violations committed by private individuals, especially if the victims were part of a sector vulnerable to abuses.
There were also times when the commission heaped praises on government officers and criticized its perceived enemies, including communist rebels, which are usually associated with CHR.
Recently, supporters of the government were surprised to see CHR condemning actions by the New People’s Army, which was accused of using girls as sex slaves. But some netizens were also quick to question why CHR still passed the buck to the government to arrest the perpetrators.
“Even when CHR investigates, it is still upon the government to ensure that these incidences of human rights abuses and violations are pursued in the interest of administering justice for and on behalf of the victims from wrongful acts perpetrated by non-State actors,” De Guia explained.
“It is in this view that we agree with Congressman Marcoleta—all human rights violations should be investigated. But with respect to the wisdom of the Constitution, CHR is not a law enforcement agency. This is also the marginal note contained in the said infographic,” she added.
CHR has also received various accusations of being biased against President Duterte and biased toward the past administration, as several human rights incidents before the President’s term were supposedly not investigated.
However, it stressed that even past administrations of the commission had probed accusations before, like the violent dispersal of Kidapawan farmers in 2016.
“CHR issued a report in their probe regarding the incident, recommending the filing of criminal, civil and administrative charges against local government officials, law enforcement personnel, inquest prosecutors and protest organizers in connection with the violent dispersal of a farmers’ protest in Kidapawan City on April 1,” CHR noted in a Facebook post.
The Commission on Human Rights has recently been made aware of efforts by individuals to spread misleading information…
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