De Lima defends CHR

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DETAINED Sen. Leila de Lima on Saturday said the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has proven its exemplary work as the “cornerstone” of human rights in the country.

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She described as “appalling” the threat of President Rodrigo Duterte to abolish the CHR for its alleged interference on how the police deal with drug-related cases and how soldiers implement martial law in Mindanao.

The senator said the CHR has served “countless Filipinos through its programs and services, and has addressed institutional challenges in terms of resources and extent of its mandate.”

De Lima, who once chaired CHR, said she was no longer surprised that the President can unleash his tirades against those critical of his administration.

“I no longer find it surprising given that the President demonizes human rights advocates and promotes killings as crime prevention even before he assumed the presidency,” she said.

In a press conference after his Second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 24, President Duterte told the CHR to seek first his approval before it conducts any investigation on complaints against policemen or soldiers, as he mulled on its abolition.

The CHR, created under the 1987 Constitution, is tasked to protect citizens’ rights from abuses by the state, said De Lima, who is now detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, on drug charges.

CHR Chairman Chito Gascon said the agency will continue to perform its constitutional mandate despite the President’s warning. He maintained that any talks to abolish CHR would need constitutional amendments or Charter change.

De Lima earlier filed Senate Bill 1230 that seeks to regard the CHR as the national human rights institution and strengthen its powers and functions.

“This regime can send its most vicious hatchet men against me, but I refuse to be silenced on the human rights situation in the country. Down to my last breath, I will continue opposing this bloody regime,” she said.

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