‘CHR NEEDED NOW, MORE THAN EVER’ | Top training school for civil servants, NCPAG, backs rights body

September 15, 2017 - 6:49 PM
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CHR livestream UN meeting
Officials, rights advocates and journalists watch the livestream of the Geneva UPR session at the Quezon City office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in this May 2017 file photo. BERNARD TESTA, INTERAKSYON.COM
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MANILA – The country’s premier training school for public servants has come out in support of the Commission on Human Rights, saying the agency – one of seven constitutional bodies mandated in the 1987 Charter – is needed “now, more than ever.”

As of late Friday afternoon, 71 members of the faculty, research and extension and administrative staff and students of the National College for Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) had signed a statement supporting the CHR, which the House of Representatives virtually wants abolished by giving it a measly P1,000 budget for 2018. In contrast, the Senate has vowed to endorse its proposed budget of more than P600 million.

Leading the signatories were the current dean and two former deans.

“In a political climate where the war on drugs has turned bloody, criminals are dehumanized, and the nation divided and confused, the House of Representatives’ decision to appropriate a P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is disturbing. UP NCPAG is gravely concerned that the institution that protects the Filipinos’ basic human rights is being crippled,” said the statement.

NCPAG called the “defunding” of the CHR “eerily ironic,” coming one week before the 45th anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law, which it said “was characterized by abridging civil liberties and the unbridled exercise of the coercive powers of the State.”

NCPAG traced the CHR’s roots: “The framers of the 1987 Constitution saw it fit to enshrine an independent institution to look after the human rights of all Filipinos and to ensure that never again shall the abuses under Martial Law happen.”

The signatories found it “disappointing to witness our lawmakers, who have been elected under this rights-based Constitution to use the power of the majority, weaken the institution that is constitutionally mandated to uphold the rights of all citizens, particularly the weak and desperate.”

Since its inception, “the CHR has led the investigation and management of cases on the desaparecidos, the Human Rights Claims Board, juvenile justice and welfare, and anti-torture, among others. The CHR investigates violations of basic human rights, particularly of the State and its instrumentalities because as duty-bearers, the latter should protect human rights, not to trample on it,” added NCPAG.

Earlier on Friday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez appeared to have softened on his stand, following widespread denunciation of the House’s majority vote last Tuesday emasculating the CHR, which has espoused independent investigations of suspected extra-judicial killings in the war on drugs. Only 30 House members voted “No” to the P1,000 budget for CHR.

Alvarez said the House might reconsider if the CHR can prove, at the bicameral conference level, that it has substantial programs that fulfill its constitutional mandate. However,he attacked CHR chairman Chito Gascon again, calling him “thick-faced” for refusing to resign to save the agency.

BELOW, FULL TEXT OF THE STATEMENT:

THE IRONY OF A THOUSAND

NOW, MORE THAN EVER, THE PHILIPPINES NEEDS A STRONG Commission on Human Rights.

In a political climate where the war on drugs has turned bloody, criminals are dehumanized, and the nation divided and confused, the House of Representatives’ decision to appropriate a P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is disturbing. UP NCPAG is gravely concerned that the institution that protects the Filipinos’ basic human rights is being crippled.

On the 45th anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law, the defunding of the CHR is eerily ironic. Martial Law was characterized by abridging civil liberties and the unbridled exercise of the coercive powers of the State. The framers of the 1987 Constitution saw it fit to enshrine an independent institution to look after the human rights of all Filipinos and to ensure that never again shall the abuses under Martial Law happen.

Have we lost our sense of history? It is disappointing to witness our lawmakers, who have been elected under this rights-based Constitution to use the power of the majority, weaken the institution that is constitutionally mandated to uphold the rights of all citizens, particularly the weak and desperate. The CHR, together with other government agencies, is tasked to safeguard the human rights of all citizens. However, the CHR has the unique competence to protect citizens from offenses by agents of the state. Is it not reassuring to know that the Constitution has put in place a permanent mechanism that will help prevent the State from exercising its coercive powers to oppress its citizens?

Since its establishment, the CHR has led the investigation and management of cases on the desaparecidos, the Human Rights Claims Board, juvenile justice and welfare, and anti-torture, among others. The CHR investigates violations of basic human rights, particularly of the State and its instrumentalities because as duty-bearers, the latter should protect human rights, not to trample on it.

To ask if CHR has adequately performed its mandate is a valid question. CHR’s mandate makes it appear like a formidable institution. In spite of their plenary powers of investigation, it actually relies and needs the cooperation of other government agencies for protection of rights, law enforcement and prosecution of cases. The Commission undertakes its mandate through 854 personnel only.

While we believe in U.P.’s role as social critic, UP-NCPAG has always promoted a balanced understanding of government. It believes that the State can offer competent, compassionate, honest, and ethical public services, respectful of the rule of law and human rights.

WE THEREFORE CALL FOR THE STRENGTHENING OF CHR AND ALL INSTITUTIONS PROMOTING BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS, ESPECIALLY OF THE MOST VULNERABLE: THE POOR, THE CHILDREN, THE WOMEN, THE SICK AND THE LUMADS.
We call on:

The EXECUTIVE to heed EO2 (Freedom of Information) that enable the CHR to readily access and disseminate crucial information that will help resolve the processing and investigation of human rights cases;

The SENATE and HOR to see through the merits of promoting an independent CHR by supporting it with reasonable resources;

All PUBLIC SERVANTS especially NCPAG alumni, students, and colleagues in government to live as a way of life, the basic principles of good governance and ethical public administration.

Now, more than ever, the PUBLIC should continue to be vigilant. The PUBLIC should hold their elected leaders and all public servants accountable for their actions. The PUBLIC should demand to strengthen CHR.

FACULTY MEMBERS
Maria Fe MENDOZA (Dean)
Alex BRILLANTES JR. (Former Dean)
Romeo OCAMPO (Former Dean)
Ma. Faina DIOLA (Director, Center for Leadership, Citizenship and Democracy)
Erwin ALAMPAY (Director, Center for Local and Regional Governance)
Ebinezer FLORANO (Director, Center for Policy and Executive Development)
Minerva BAYLON
Dan SAGUIL
Zita CALUGAY
Kris BERSE
Herisadel FLORES
Ma. Oliva DOMINGO (Retired)
Jose TABBADA (Retired)

RESEARCH, EXTENSION AND PROFESSIONAL STAFF (REPS)
Elyzabeth CUREG(Lecturer)
Lourdes SANTOS
Prej PRIETO
Lori ODULIO
Charlie RIVAS JR.
Lydia ANGELES
Core CABANILLA (Lecturer)
Raphael MONTES JR.

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF
Jose Angelito AURELIO
Nedy DEL ROSARIO
Vanessa GALLEGO
Crizalina MORALES
Joel REGIDOR
Dennis SACORUM
Michael MENDOZA
Reinalyn VELASQUEZ
Jaryl Paul QUINCINA
Joseph Vallen ROMENILLOS
Karl Emmanuel RUIZ
Marylyn RUBITE
Maricris MONTANO
Bea Angelica MAUN

STUDENTS
Alyanna Alex SULAIK
Liezel CUNETA
Chino Joseph CRUZ
Isabelle Beatrice MAGTANONG
Jean Mariel RAÑISES
Judith Leanne Pauline KIT
Alicia Nicole CRUZ
Patrick Karlo CABANERO
Lydon Rom DAVID
Maria Michaela DIMAANO
Patricia Mae BONAYON
Patricia Rae SAMPOL
Jonathan TORRES
Rowell Aquila MACAPAGAL II
Ma. Paula Clara DANOJOG
Ian Mico CORTEZ
Danielle PALOMAR
Athena Louise GARCIA
Jose Gabrielle PATULLANO
Miguel Iseah LANDICHO
Astrid MONTANA
Patrick Owen DE GUZMAN
Arvin MANLAPAZ
Annie ANDEA
Kevin ORTIZ
Paul Edward MUEGO
Florence PASOS
Mary Rose Claire SILVA
Joana May MANALIGOD
Ma. Victoria BAUTISTA
Guillian MECATE
Conrad Jessie ASIA
Rapunzel DANIEL
Jonathan ALBANO
Mei BASTES
Christopher IGNACIO

71 signatures as of September 15, 2017 (4:36 PM)