Why it isn’t the CHR’s job to protect us from terrorists and drug addicts

Photo of Commission on Human Rights chairperson Chito Gascon from The Philippine Star

Last Sept. 12, the House of Representatives voted to give the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) a P1,000 budget.

 

1-Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta was the only member of the majority who spoke to justify the defunding. And after watching the livestream and reading his quotes, we’re pretty sure that he had no idea what he was talking about (see: the mention of terrorists).

In his speech, he used the same argument that House Speaker Panteleon Alvarez used prior to the hearing. So basically accusing the CHR of “allegedly failing to fulfill its mandate of protecting the human rights of all Filipinos.”

Though the CHR has repeatedly stressed that speaking out against non-state committed crime isn’t their main function, the 119 who voted yes to the measly budget obviously still haven’t gotten the point.

You’d think that our leaders would at least give valid, educated reasons for downgrading an entire constitutional body’s budget, but that’s obviously not the case here.

But then again, these are very busy government officials. Maybe they were busy reading other, more ~important~ government things. Maybe they were busy filing cases against other politicians. Maybe they were so busy shopping for the latest Céline bag or jetting off to Japan that they couldn’t spare a minute to read the CHR’s mandate sans a TL;DR version. Never mind that the CHR has some very helpful infographics on their Facebook page about the difference between crimes and human rights violations, right?

So just in case, here’s a simple primer, explaining the mandate of the CHR in three points and very simple words.

 

The CHR is an independent institution that protects the human rights of Filipinos.

By independent, we mean that free from outside control or support (e.g. the government). To put Section 17, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution simply, the CHR is responsible for looking into complaints by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights.”

 

The CHR’s main function is to protect individuals from abuses committed by the state.

Again, the state. As a watchdog of the government, their job is to look into violations to the Bill of Rights, especially from government authorities like the police. Anything else is considered a crime, which are handled by the police.

 

The CHR prioritizes cases involving victims from marginalized sectors of society.

Marginalized sectors include women, the LGBTQIA+, senior citizens, and indigenous people among others. Abuses against members of other sectors are more likely to be classified as crimes.

 

So there you have it, a short and sweet description of the responsibilities of the CHR written especially so that even grade schoolers can understand it. Now if only the 119 who voted yes were just as sensible.

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