DETAINED Sen. Leila de Lima described as “appalling” the threat of President Rodrigo Duterte to abolish the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for allegedly interfering on how police deal with drug-related cases and how soldiers implement martial law in Mindanao.
De Lima, former head of the CHR, said the agency has proven its exemplary work as the “cornerstone” of human rights in the country.
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 said she was no longer surprised that the President could 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, Duterte told CHR to seek first his approval before it would investigate any complaint against policemen or soldiers and said that he was considering 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 detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center on drug charges.
CHR Chairman Chito Gascon said the agency would continue to perform its constitutional mandate despite the President’s warning. He maintained that any talk to abolish CHR would need constitutional amendments or Charter change.
De Lima filed Senate Bill 1230, which recognizes the CHR as a national human rights institution and to 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. BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO