THE Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro has created a collaboration of organizations promoting human rights, called the Human Rights and Access to Justice Initiative which vowed to provide legal assistance and document human rights violations in Cagayan de Oro City.
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said this is the church's answer to the rising number of suspected drug suspects in the city. Base on police reports, there are already 13 persons killed in the city in drug bust operations while there are more than 20 in Misamis Oriental.
"Yes it is alarming, wala’y evidence na sila mga pushers or users, they incurred na walay rule of law, that in itself is already a cause of alarm. So mao ng tuyo dinhi na kung magtinabangay kita, we can try to get the evidence," he said in a press conference.
The initiative will serve as a human rights and legal education and promotion center, legal assistance and case referral center, and human and civil rights violations documentation center.
Lawyer Ernesto Neri, focal person of the initiative said they will tap the church's parishes to help educate those in remote communities about the basics on human rights.
"It is important to document human rights violations we hear so that when the right time comes, we can use it in the future," Neri said.
He added that they will develop an online form of reporting the abuses and come up with a database.
"Our function is not a duplication, but an amplification of the CHR's [Commission on Human Rights] mission," he said.
Neri also pointed out that the allegations of irregularities in buy-bust operations are becoming a pattern.
"This is something that we have to be vigilant about, that's why it is important to document all these stories because sooner or later, if there is an effort to give reparations, it is important that we have documents, put all their stories in writing for future use," he added.
The initiative got the support of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines -Misamis Oriental chapter (IBP-MisOr). IBP president Eddie Cuaresma said the initiative is very timely and relevant.
He said the public, including authorities should be reminded that "we are a government of laws, not of men.
"We are here because we believe in the rule of law and due process," he added.
The group is composed of the CHR, IBP, Balaod Mindanaw, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and the legal centers of Xavier University and Liceo de Cagayan University.