House members took turns decrying the way the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has been performing its role as a human rights body.
The lawmakers expressed their dismay at the CHR during the hearing on the agency’s proposed budget for 2018 which was conducted by the House committee on appropriations chaired by Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City).
The CHR proposed a budget of P1.23 billion, up from this year’s budget of P749 million. However, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) slashed the CHR proposed budget to P678 million.
During the hearing, lawmakers lamented that the CHR, led by its chairman Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon, is quick to denounce alleged human rights violations committed by the law enforcement agencies, but is noticeably quiet on the human rights abuses perpetrated by criminals or terrorists.
Rep. Harry Roque (Party-list, KABAYAN) said the CHR has been very vocal about the alleged human rights violations of the current Duterte administration, but not on the human rights abuses reportedly committed during the Aquino administration.
He said that while the CHR and the mandate of promoting and protecting human rights should be apolitical, the CHR is perceived to be very political.
“They (CHR) choose only to criticize the human rights record of the current administration and they remain silent on the human rights record of the past dispensation,” said Roque, a human rights lawyer said.
He pointed out that the CHR is perceived by the public as a political tool against the Duterte administration.
“I’m afraid that unless you (CHR) actually take steps to end impunity as far as the previous administration is concerned, it is not just the President who will perceive CHR as becoming a very political entity being used against this current administration, but the common people as well,” Roque said.
“What adds to the partisan perception of the CHR is the fact that you (Gascon) are a card-bearing member of the Liberal Party and a former Director-General of the Liberal Party,” Roque further said.
Rep. Celso Lobregat (1st District, Zamboanga City) stressed that the CHR’s mandate is to promote and protect human rights, adding that the agency should denounce the violations whether they are committed by the State or not.
Lobregat noted that the CHR did not condemn the perpetrators in the Zamboanga siege, Maguindanao massacre, Mamasapano carnage, Marawi attack, beheading of soldiers, and even kidnapping.
“Everytime there is a violation of human rights perpetrated by terrorists or private armies, there is no condemnation by the CHR, unlike when there is a seemingly human rights violation committed by the agents of the State,” he said.
Rep. Carlos Roman Uybarreta (Party-list, 1-CARE) said the CHR’s mindset that it was created as an equalizer against a superior authority needs to be changed, as some of the enemies of the State now are more superior than the sovereign authority.
“When the State is being attacked by a group or industry, the Commission must also act upon it.”
Rep. Ariel Casilao (Party-list, ANAKPAWIS) said the CHR should be non-partisan, adding that biases and partiality should take a back seat in the interest of the people.