Lapid bill bats for CHR’s full fiscal autonomy
MANILA, Philippines —Senator Lito Lapid on Saturday said he wants to give “more teeth” to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by “expanding its structural, operational, and functional independence.”
Lapid recently filed Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2487, or “an act strengthening the CHR as a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) and for other purposes.”
According to Lapid, the bill guarantees the Commission full fiscal autonomy to ensure a “prompt, immediate, and unrestricted” fulfillment of its functions.
“[The bill] defines the general powers and functions of the Commission, and grants it with full authority to act on all cases of human rights violations. In addition, it vests the CHR with the power to issue injunctive reliefs and legal measures,” Lapid said in a press release.
The bill indicates that the Commission shall enjoy autonomy, and its appropriations shall not be reduced and be automatically and regularly released.
In the bill’s explanatory note, Lapid stressed that the CHR is an independent body created under the 1987 Constitution.
He said that it was constituted in 1987 to protect and promote the humans of everyone in the Philippines, as well as the Filipinos abroad, regarded as the country’s NHRI.
“However, in its 36 years of existence, the CHR is limited from reaching its full potential and in becoming fully compliant with the requirements of the Paris Principles or the Principles Relating to the Status of National Human Rights Institutions,” said Lapid.
He reiterated that the Philippines needs a CHR that is “truly independent and with full fiscal autonomy.”
“Today, more than ever, we need a more active CHR, one that is not strapped to the task of investigation or that cannot recognize cases of human rights violations other than those involving civil and political rights,” he said.
“We need a CHR that can address the challenge of protecting and promoting the human rights of all, especially the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized sectors of society,” he added.
Provisions of the SBN 2487
Lapid said that the CHR shall have a human rights information campaign program and establish a Human Rights Institute which will promote and educate on human rights and related fields, as well as serve as a training institute for investigators, prosecutors, justices, judges, lawyers, and other human rights workers.
Under the bill, providing safety to witnesses and human rights defenders under threat is one of the investigative powers and functions of the CHR. The Commission shall then manage and implement a witness protection service.
SBN 2487 will allow the Commission grant immunity from prosecution to anyone whose testimony, or documents are essential in establishing the truth of an investigation being conducted.
The CHR shall also be able to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence, place a witness under oath or affirmation, issue subpoenas, and take testimony in any of the investigations or inquiries it is conducting.
It can also take action against any person violating the Commission’s Rules of Procedures and lawful orders.
The bill likewise mandates the CHR to render legal service assistance to the underprivileged victims of human rights violations.
The Commission shall prepare and make public an annual report on the findings of its monitoring activities too.
“The proposed charter for the CHR is a significant step towards reinforcing the protection of human rights in the Philippines, aligning with the global commitment to fostering a world where the dignity and rights of every individual are upheld,” Lapid said.