Dared to bring EJK claims before courts, CHR reminds public it’s not a prosecuting body
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has reminded the public that the agency is not a body meant to prosecute rights abusers, amid dares from administration supporters to bring their extrajudicial killings (EJK) claims to court.
CHR spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline de Guia explained on Thursday that aside from promoting human rights, the commission’s main functions are to investigate allegations and complaints of rights abuses, and make recommendations out of it — not file cases against abusers.
The clamor for CHR to file cases came after the commission gave hints that police officers used excessive force and had the “intent to kill” in implementing the war against illegal drugs. But according to De Guia, it is the relatives of the victims or the Department of Justice (DOJ) who hold the power to sue authorities.
“Kami po ay investigative body, kailangan na ang magsampa ng kaso ay ‘yon mismong biktima or kaya ang DOJ. Kaya lang kapag willing ‘yong biktima, maaari naming tulungan sa pagsasampa,” De Guia said in an interview with Strong Radio 90.3 in Cagayan de Oro, transcripts of which were shared by CHR to INQUIRER.net.
(We are an investigative body, the cases have to be filed by the victims themselves or by DOJ. But sometimes, if the victim is willing, we are extending some help in the filing of the cases.)
“Kami naman dahil recommendatory at saka investigative body, ay ifo-forward namin sa DOJ for example ‘yong aming mga findings para ma-aksyunan ito,” De Guia added.
(As we are a recommendatory and investigative body, we would just forward documents to DOJ — for example, our findings — so that they can act on it.)
Senator Ronald dela Rosa earlier urged the CHR to file cases before the courts if the agency finds evidence of EJKs in police operations.
Dela Rosa, President Rodrigo Duterte’s first Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and implementer of the Oplan Tokhang, added that CHR must file charges against the police officers involved or the claims may just be “construed as black propaganda.”
Dela Rosa was the one who coined the term “Tokhang,” a portmanteau of the word “toktok” which means to knock, and Visayan word “hangyo” or to plead.
In a Philippine Daily Inquirer report on Thursday, CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel Gana said that the commission has already investigated around 3,300 deaths in Metro Manila, Central and Southern Luzon, including those from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style killings between May 2016 and March 2021.
Gana said that the report, which would be released later on, showed that PNP — one of the major implementers of the drug war — used excessive and unreasonable force when conducting police operations.
De Guia meanwhile noted that it would be easy to forward their findings to DOJ as they have a data-sharing agreement, aside from Secretary Menardo Guevarra assuring CHR of its commitment to improve the government’s human rights record.
Earlier, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also urged CHR to forward documents to the National Bureau of Investigation for complaints to be filed, clarifying that CHR itself cannot press charges because it does not have prosecutorial powers.
“And ang kagandahan ay merong data-sharing agreement ang CHR saka ng DOJ, tapos natutuwa naman kami na si SOJ (Secretary of Justice) ay merong strong commitment na makipagtulungan sa CHR para nga mapaganda ‘yong record ng pamahalaan, at hindi masabi na kinukunsinti ng pamahalaan itong mga kasong ito,” De Guia said.
(The good thing here is that there is a data-sharing agreement between CHR and DOJ, as we are also happy that SOJ expressed commitment to helping CHR in improving the record of the government, and to shot down claims that the government is tolerating these cases.
“Napaka-ganda para sa mga biktima at kaanak ng mga biktima na magsampa ng kaso, una hindi […] biro ‘yong hinaharap nilang panganib kasi nga ‘yong mga alleged perpetrators ay mga pulis at nasa kapangyarihan,” she added.
(It would be good if the victims or the relatives of the victims can file cases, because first, the precarious situation they are going through is not a joke as the alleged perpetrators are police officers or those in power.)
De Guia also assured the public that CHR is not being used as a political tool to criticize the administration, in the context of the upcoming 2022 National Elections.
“Kahit anong administrasyon mula noong 1986 ay merong mga kaso ng EJK ano po, kaya lang napansin po natin na sa administrasyon na ito, ‘yong bilis, ‘yong rate, at saka ‘yong scale ay mataas po,” she explained.
(Extrajudicial killings have existed in every administration since 1986, but the reason why we placed attention over this administration is because of the quick rise, the rate, and the scale of abuses are high.)
“So kumbaga itong ginagawa namin ay hindi pamumulitika, kumbaga ay pagtulong sa pamahalaan, pagtulong sa DOJ para ipakita na gumagana ang mga mekanismo natin dito sa loob ng bansa,” she added.
(So what we are doing is not politicking, but helping the government, helping DOJ show that in this country, mechanisms against abuses are working.)
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