Monday, September 16, 2019

RIP Human Rights Commission?

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is thinking about abolishing the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), following its supposed interference in the actions of government security forces in conflict-torn Mindanao.

Duterte slammed the CHR last Monday, saying the army and police forces were merely implementing “in good faith” military rule in the island.

The President insisted that there have been no human rights violations since he declared martial law on May 23 in the southern Philippines.

"Let me [say] something about martial law. The army, the military, the armed forces and the police are there in good faith. They are there to arrest, they are there to kill, they are to stop the rebellion, okay?” he said.

"Now, in pursuit or in the prosecution of those duties or mandate, they have to control civilians, they have to force them out of the house, they have to bar them from entering places," he added.

The CHR, whose mandate is to protect the citizens' rights from state abuses, has not recorded any violations committed since Mindanao was placed under martial law.

But the commission assured the public that it is monitoring reports of censorship threats and instances of warrantless arrests.

According to the President, he was compelled to declare martial law after the Maute group laid siege to Marawi City, capital of Lanao del Sur.

He said that he would not allow the CHR to investigate any security personnel as he was the one who declared martial law.

"When the time comes, the CHR, its office here, you are better abolished. I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated. Remember this Human Rights Commission, you address your request through me because the armed forces is under me and the police is under me. So if you question them for investigation, you have to go to me first," he added.

However, a local CHR official believes that Duterte's plan to abolish the agency won't hold water.

In a text message to SunStar Cebu yesterday, CHR 7 Acting Director Arvin Odron said Duterte will have to amend the 1987 Constitution if he pushes through with his plan.

Odron, a lawyer, said the Constitution created the CHR as an independent office mandated to investigate complaints of human rights violations, promote the protection of, respect for and the enhancements of the people’s human rights, including civil and political rights.

The CHR was created as an offshoot of the country’s experience during the Marcos dictatorship.

“Should the President decide to abolish it, then a constitutional convention must be called to amend or revise the same to include the abolition of the CHR. But I don’t think he will really pursue that or he will get the support to abolish the CHR,” Odron said.

He said that despite criticisms it has received since Duterte assumed office, the CHR has served its purpose in monitoring human rights abuses committed by the government. (SunStar Philippines with JKV)
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