CHR’s wish for 2023: Lasting peace, justice despite changes
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is wishing that 2023 will be a year of lasting peace and justice for Filipinos, assuring the public that the agency’s mandate remains the same despite the changes that happened over the previous years.
In a statement on Saturday — New Year’s Eve — CHR said that the different transitions in 2022 like the elections and the entrance of new officials did not change its aspiration to protect the human rights and dignity of Filipinos.
“The new year also yields the Commission with hope towards lasting justice and peace for all. In this regard, we call on the government to fulfill their international and constitutional human rights obligations through the pursuit of transitional justice and provision of reparations for all human rights abuses. We underscore that true unity and peace may only be realised when impunity, tyranny, and violence ceases to exist,” CHR said.
“Equally important in these aspirations are the duties we must fulfill as citizens in order to respect and protect one another. May we be reminded that human rights lie at the core of our human dignity. Our liberties and freedoms are what makes us human; and a just and humane society is where equality and diversity persists,” the CHR added.
In 2022, CHR saw new faces: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appointed the first two members of the en banc committee — Chairperson Richard Paat Palpal-latoc and Commissioner Beda Epres — after the agency was left without any sitting official for months.
“The year 2022 is marked by transitions—from the national elections to our collective movement towards this new state of normal following the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the rest of the nation, the [CHR] was no stranger to meaningful change. This year, the country’s independent national human rights institution welcomed the new members of its 6th Commission en banc: Chairperson Richard P. Palpal-latoc and Commissioner Beda A. Epres,” CHR said.
“What remained constant amid all these developments is the Commission’s commitment to its mandate to protect and promote the human rights and dignity of all; prevent human rights violations against those on the margins of society; and continue to be a proponent of a human rights-based approach in all government policies and actions,” it added.
CHR said that despite the challenges they faced during the height of the pandemic, they found allies online and offline who helped them prevent abuses and seek accountability for victims of abuse.
“Along the way, CHR found strength and support from various communities online and offline who have never wavered in speaking truth to power. We recognise and give our utmost gratitude to human rights advocates across different sectors, the media, and the international human rights community who remained steadfast in embodying ideals for the common good,” it said.
“In particular, the distinct progress in the human rights discourse in the country is all thanks to your contributions. This 2023, CHR looks forward to your renewed vigor as we continue to stand up for human rights. May many more follow suit and feel empowered to exercise their right to expression and assembly in the interest of upholding social justice and democracy,” it added.
During the middle of the year, just after the elections, CHR was looking forward to the appointment of new officials considering that the Commission had been “headless” for months.
Despite that, CHR’s caretaker back then, Executive Director Jacqueline de Guia, assured that the Commission’s functions are not abandoned.
On the other side of issues, human rights groups and activists called on the new appointees to maintain independence, considering that they were both linked to the Marcos administration before their appointment.