Eastmincom exec says CHR mandate doesn't serve all

FOLLOWING the threat of President Rodrigo Duterte to abolish the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), local authorities is pinning its hope that the agency's scope and functions will be expanded, calling it unfair that their mandate only covers investigations of abuses committed by the government forces and not those who aggrieved them.

Brigadier General Gilbert Gapay, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) deputy commander and Martial Law spokesperson, said on Wednesday that he is looking forward that the legislators will at least amend the mandate and functions of CHR that will be inclusive to create balance in investigating abuses committed by both government and non-government individuals.

"For me, maybe let's revisit ‘yong mandate nila. Maybe expand it to cover not only kami, government security forces, but also ibang sectors din," Gapay said.

This was his reply when sought to comment on the warning of President Duterte in a press conference after his second State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday to dissolve CHR because of its continuous interference on their actions to address security threats and criminality.

"When the time comes, the CHR, its office, 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. That is why if you question them for investigation, you need to pass through me," Duterte said.

The CHR, an independent constitutional office, serves as the watchdog in monitoring "only" state-perpetrated abuses and conduct impartial investigation to ensure that human rights of civilians are upheld.

He added that they are also humans and has also the rights as well.

Gapay also questioned that if the other sector violated their rights, to whom they will report their complaints.

Thus, he hoped that CHR's mandate must cater all sectors.

"Parang it's one-sided. That's why siguro its seems unfair sa mga government security forces kaya nakita natin ito, overtime, by our President," he said.

Police Regional Office (PRO)-Davao director Manuel Gaerlan, for his part, said that they will leave it to the legislator if there will be a law proposing for its abolition or amendment of the constitution.

"Pag may nag-commit ng abuses against sa amin, wala pala kaming karapatang pantao. We are also humans. Bakit kapag kami ang naabuso bilang tao, bakit hindi sila mag imbestiga?" Chief Superintendent Gaerlan said.

In a follow-up statement, he underscored that the CHR's sole duty, as stated in Section 18, Art. XIII of Phil Constitution, "is to protect the rights and welfare of citizens in the Philippines", including members of the AFP and PNP because they are also citizens of the Republic.

"The claim of CHR that they cannot investigate human right violations committed vs. AFP and PNP personnel is wrong! Their mandate and primary function is to investigate all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights in Philippines," Gaerlan said.

Zero HR complaint

Not a single human rights violation has been recorded by authorities in the area of Eastern Mindanao and the Davao region.

They have not received formal complaints involving government law enforcers, thus, challenging the militant groups who are rallying on the streets calling for justice, to file charges as there are complaint desks set up for the victims to report it like the CHR.

"For the record, the Police Regional Office has not received a single complaint against any of its personnel or any military personnel as far as Martial Law related abuses are concern," Gaerlan said.

"Now, kung meron mang nag e-air ng kanilang complaints or alleged abuses, puro sa media, we encourage them to formalize their complaints," he said.

Meanwhile, since the implementation of Martial Law last May 23, 10th Infantry Division (ID) spokesperson Captain Rhyan Batchar recorded a total of 50 atrocities undertaken by the New People's Army (NPA) against government authorities and civilians.

The communist group, he said, is taking advantage while the troops are implementing the Martial Law as they continue with their usual harassments and extortion activities in the communities and army units.
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