MANILA, Aug. 8— Several lawmakers at the House of Representatives has expressed dismay at the way the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has been performing its role as a human rights body.
The lawmakers denounced the seeming bias of the CHR in investigating human rights cases during the hearing on the agency’s proposed budget for 2018 conducted Monday by the House Committee on Appropriations chaired by Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles.
During the hearing, lawmakers lamented how the CHR, led by its chairman Jose Luis Gascon, has been quick to denounce alleged human rights violations committed by the law enforcement agencies but is noticeably quiet on the human rights abuses perpetrated by criminals or terrorists.
Kabayan Partylist Rep. Harry Roque noted that the CHR has been very vocal about the alleged human rights violations of the current Duterte administration, but not on the human rights abuses reportedly committed during the Aquino administration.
He said that while the CHR and the mandate of promoting and protecting human rights should be apolitical, he warned that the CHR would be perceived by the public to be a political tool against the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The CHR choose only to criticize the human rights record of the current administration and they remain silent on the human rights record of the past dispensation,” Roque, a human rights lawyer said.
“I’m afraid that unless the CHR actually take steps to end impunity as far as the previous administration is concerned, it is not just the President who will perceive CHR as becoming a very political entity being used against this current administration, but the common people as well,” Roque said.
He also pointed out that adding to that perception is the fact that Gascon is a card-bearing member of the Liberal Party and its former director-general.
Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat told the CHR that should denounce the violations whether they are committed by the State or not.
He noted that the CHR failed to condemn the perpetrators of the Zamboanga siege, Maguindanao massacre, Mamasapano carnage, Marawi attack, beheading of soldiers, and even kidnapping.
“Every time there is a violation of human rights perpetrated by terrorists or private armies, there is no condemnation by the CHR, unlike when there is a seemingly human rights violation committed by the agents of the State,” Lobregat said.
Meanwhile, 1-Care Partylist Rep. Carlos Roman Uybarreta said the CHR’s mindset that it was created as an equalizer against a superior authority needs to be changed, pointing out that some of the enemies of the State now are more superior than the sovereign authority.
“When the State is being attacked by a group or industry, the Commission must also act upon it.”
Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao, for his part, said the CHR should be nonpartisan, adding that biases and partiality should take a back seat in the interest of the people.
Earlier, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said that the CHR’s budget should be slashed due to its alleged bias to protecting the rights of criminals and other lawless elements.
“I have long observed that the CHR only focuses on the rights of criminals but is mum on the rights of their victims. Whenever there are massacres perpetrated by criminals or drug addicts, the CHR has no comment,” he told reporters during an ambush interview at the sidelines of the hearing.
“Ngayon pag meron namang halimbawa, may mga insidente na may namatay at meron silang pagdududa na eto ay extra-judicial killing na ginawa nung ating mga kapulisan ay talagang maingay sila. Akala ko ba yung human rights ay para sa lahat, bakit namimili sila ng pinoprotektahan at inaalagaan na karapatan,” Alvarez said.
The Speaker, however, said that he would not recommend for the abolition of the constitutional body but said that if he has his way, he would recommend a zero budget for the agency.
“Hindi natin ia-abolish kasi constitutional budget. Kung ako ang tatanungin ninyo e, zero — pag ganyan ang performance. E bakit? Dahil nga hindi naman fair eh. Hindi nila ginagampanan yung trabaho nila para protektahan yung karapatang pantao — para sa lahat ng tao, sa lahat ng Pilipino dito sa ating bansa,” Alvarez said.
The CHR proposed a budget of PHP1.23 billion, up from this year’s budget of PHP 749 million.
However, the Department of Budget and Management slashed the CHR proposed budget to PH678 million, a reduction of almost 10 percent from the current budget.