PRESIDENT Duterte has opened a healthy debate about the relevance and necessity of maintaining at taxpayer’s expense a Commission on Human Rights. DU30 started it when he declared during a media interview at the Batasan last Monday that he might seek the abolition of the commission.
We in The Manila Times take an interest in this issue because we have sometimes wondered about the work of the CHR. We wondered when it figured as host in bringing to the country the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) rapporteur Agnes Callamard. We wondered about it when the commission turned in a nothing (nobody’s fault) report on the massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2016.
We also wondered why the CHR could contribute no significant information to the inquiry conducted by the Senate on the alleged killing of drug suspects by a Davao Death Squad (DDS) in Davao City many years ago.
Most of all, our interest was stirred by the declaration by CHR officials that the commission will investigate only alleged human rights violations by state agencies or officials and operatives of the state. Alleged human rights violations in the private sector, committed by private organizations or individuals, are completely outside its concern. The commission exists to build a case against the government or its representatives.
These intriguing propositions have impelled us to conduct research and study the issue at length.
After considerable research, we have discovered that the Philippines is one of only a few countries in the world that funds through public money a human rights commission to investigate itself.
In the United States, where much of the talk about human rights started in 1945, there is no such commission.
In much of the world there is none.
Turning to the crux of the CHR’s mandate and existence, we were astounded to discover that our CHR is essentially a superfluity, the product of exaggerated zeal by the Cory-appointed members of the constitutional commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution.
1.In Article II “Declaration of principles and State policies”, Section 14, the Charter provides: “The State values the dignity of every human person and full respect for human rights.”
`2. In Article III “Bill of Rights,” the Charter enumerates the specific civil and political rights of the citizen, including security of person and his property, and due process of law. These rights are sacrosanct. They exist without any government grant, and may not be taken away by government, which has a duty to protect them.
3. In Article XIII “Social Justice and Human Rights,” Section 17 to 19, the Charter provides for the creation of a Commission on Human Rights, which the Congress is asked to constitute.
With the ironclad protections for human rights contained in the bill of rights, why was it necessary for our Constitution-framers to provide for a human rights commission?
We are troubled that this provision was authored by individuals who were looking toward future employment by the government.
It is troubling for us to discover that the current chairman of the CHR, Jose Martin Gascon, was originally a member of the constitutional commission. He was appointed to the commission by then President Corazon Aquino as a young liberal who was active in the Aquino campaign and agitation against Marcos. He was appointed chairman of the CHR by President Benigno Aquino 3rd. Did he author the Charter provisions leading to the creation of the CHR?
Now, as the debate on the fate of the human rights commission commences, we submit that questions about its questionable origins and superfluity should be squarely answered.
We ask what great international benefit is gained by the republic for having an independent human rights commission.
We fear that all these superfluous actions on human rights in our country only serve to weaken human rights, instead of strengthening them.