“MOST of the time, itong human rights [groups] defend criminals. Wala na silang kliyente na hindi kriminal... These idiots turn a blind eye to crime. Walang pakialam ang mga gago.”
-- President Duterte, July 1, 2017
It can’t be said that President Duterte, who accused the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of defending criminals, and a senator, who asked CHR to investigate rapes and kidnappings, do not know the agency’s function.
Both Duterte and the senator, whom CHR didn’t identify, must know the reason for the Constitution and the law.
They may have forgotten. Or just using it to decry what appears to be anomalous: CHR, created and funded by government, has criticized Duterte’s pronouncements and the acts of his police.
What state orders
When CHR flogs violations of human rights, it does seem that it’s bent to “harass or embarrass” those waging the war on illegal drugs.
On the issue of extrajudicial killings (EJKs), CHR has taken the cause of the victims, many of them drug traffickers and addicts. And those in government, notably the president, howl and curse.
CHR defends crime suspects or even criminals when their rights are “violated.” It’s the work given to CHR under the Constitution and the law. CHR is not being anti-state. It’s what the state willed in creating the agency.
Those who drafted Constitution assumed that there can be persons in government who might be abusive and excessive in wielding authority. That’s what the CHR and other agencies--such as Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) or ombudsman--are tasked to do.
The difference: CHR drumbeats its criticism, PAO does not. And the ombudsman rarely does, although when this ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, acts up, she tells it what it is (think of the polite equivalent of “shove it to your a**”).
CHR has circulated a tutorial video on what it does: Abused by government or any of its agents? Come to CHR. Someone is beaten up or raped, a family is massacred by thugs or bandits? Go to the police.
The setup is not an incongruity although it must look confusing to those impatient and angry over “the human rights stuff.” The concept seeks to protect the vulnerable against the might of government and its forces. CHR is independent. It cannot be stripped its budget and starved to inaction, as some House members tend to mislead. CHR needs the autonomy so it can speak to power: whoa, you cannot do that.
But, come on CHR, is the agency prohibited explicitly from publicly condemning barbaric acts by non-state actors such as criminals, terrorists, rebels and drug-crazed addicts?
The “not-our-job” stance is not earning the goodwill of many people who’re confused by, or who don’t bother with, the nuances of CHR’s duty. And CHR haters in corridors of power are not making its work less tough and complex than it already is.