Terms of all human rights commissioners expire | Inquirer News
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Terms of all human rights commissioners expire

/ 05:46 AM May 06, 2022

The fifth batch of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) officials formally ended their seven-year term on May 5, creating a void in the agency that found itself in the crosshairs of the Duterte administration several times in the past six years.

The CHR en banc, composed originally of five people appointed in 2015 by former President Benigno Aquino III, leaves behind a legacy of resistance that included withstanding pressure from Congress to reduce its budget to P1,000, after the agency incurred Mr. Duterte’s wrath for criticizing his war on drugs and alleged human rights abuses.

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However, only CHR chair Leah Tanodra-Armamento, Commissioners Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana and Roberto Cadiz finished their terms. Chito Gascon, Armamento’s predecessor, died of COVID-19 in October last year.

In the past six years, the constitutional commission under their leadership was a crucial check to what was perceived to be the Duterte administration’s excesses, particularly in the drug war that left thousands dead under questionable circumstances.

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It was not an easy task. The government often accused the CHR of falling prey to “communists’ lies” whenever it flagged the Red-tagging of human rights defenders and political dissidents.

On multiple occasions, the CHR tried to ask the government for access to the drug war files to allow it to conduct an independent probe, a request that has yet to be granted.

Herculean challenges

But “despite the seemingly herculean challenges—may it be the hostile political environment, the pandemic or threats to its budget never encountered before in the 35-year history of the institution—[the] CHR [has] pressed on to deliver the very best for its clients especially the vulnerable sectors who deserve nothing but the best from the [agency],” said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia.

“We, the remaining human rights officers … reaffirm to the public our pledge to continue on our work in pursuance of a just and humane society,” she added.

Among the agency’s key accomplishments were a landmark report on how Red-tagging persists and threatens human rights defenders, the establishment of an online sexual violence reporting portal, as well as leading the charge against the reinstatement of death penalty in the country.

The CHR, created under the 1987 Constitution, was tasked to investigate all forms of human rights violations, involving civil and political rights. It was formed in response to the atrocities committed during martial law, which was declared by former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1972.

READ: CHR denounces continuing attacks on activists, union leaders

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TAGS: CHR, Human rights
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