CHR: Duterte admin 'encouraged deepening of impunity'

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 25) — Commission on Human Rights chair Chito Gascon on Tuesday responded to President Rodrigo Duterte's remarks to abolish the office, saying he "exhibits an utter disregard for due process, equal protection, and other civil liberties."

Duterte on Monday threatened to abolish the CHR, urging the office to be fair in investigating human rights violations.

"When the time comes, 'yung CHR, 'yung opisina dito, you are better abolished," Duterte told the media following his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa.

[Translation: When the time comes, the office of CHR better be abolished.]

Gascon, however, urged the Duterte administration to change its attitude toward human rights violations.

"The President's statements made both at his 2nd SONA and after should remove any doubt regarding the attitude his administration will take towards respecting the human rights guarantees enshrined in the Constitution," Gascon told CNN Philippines, "This has encouraged the deepening of impunity."

The CHR chair then appealed to the public "to continue to remain steadfast in advancing human rights."

He added the CHR will continue its constitutional responsibility to monitor human rights violations.

"Any discussion to abolish CHR or any other institution for that matter can be taken in the proposed constitutional-reform process...I remain hopeful human rights would still be affirmed," Gascon said.

Top security officials support CHR abolition

The country's top security officials on Tuesday expressed their support for Duterte's idea to abolish the CHR.

National police chief Ronald Dela Rosa said he appreciates the President's move, saying the police organization has sufficient administrative procedures that can handle human rights violations among its ranks.

"Dahil kami maka-Diyos, makatao, alam namin yung rights ng tao, at alam namin kung paano sumunod sa Diyos, may konsensya kami. We don't need them to dictate our conscience," Dela Rosa said,

[Translation: Because we are respect God and people, we know human rights, and we know how to follow God, we have conscience. We don't need them to dictate our conscience.]

While recognizing CHR as a constitutional body, National Defense secretary and martial law administrator Delfin Lorenzana echoed Dela Rosa's sentiments, saying the military justice system is so strict that its commanders are authorized to sanction human rights violations.

"So if all commanders will just enforce discipline at saka order sa unit (and order in the unit), there will be no human rights violations," Lorenzana said.

Duterte to CHR: Address your requests through me

During his post-SONA press conference, President Duterte slammed CHR for their investigation of government troops over their alleged human rights violations in different operations, including the Marawi crisis and their fight against communist rebels.

"Remember this. Human Rights Commission, you address your request through me because the Armed Forces is under me and the police is under me," Duterte said.

He also reiterated his stand against continuing peace talks with the Left, urging CHR to probe the encounter between the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and the communist rebels in North Cotabato on July 19, which resulted in one civilian volunteer dead, a policeman abducted, and five PSG members wounded.

"Imbestigahin na muna ng Human Rights 'yung ambush nung sa Presidential Security Group pati 'yung pulis. 'Pag wala kayong report niyan, huwag mo kaming guguluhin diyan sa… Itapon ko uli 'yan sa mukha ninyo. Better do an equal job here," Duterte said.

[Translation: CHR must first investigate the ambush of PSG and the police. If you don't have a report on that, don't mess with our operations...I will throw that back to you. Better do an equal job here.]

"Do not make it a one-sided affair. I will not allow it. As President, I will not allow it. Patas tayo. Justice for all. What is sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose," he added.

President Duterte also defended the military on allegations of human rights abuses in areas where martial law is imposed.

"There can never be a violation of martial law. Because even the killing itself is already a violation of human rights," Duterte said, "'Yung mga rebellion, 'yung you are being sequestered, you are not allowed to enter, those are not violations of human rights. Lelecturan ko kayong mga CHR. Mahina kayo."

Duterte said the military is just doing their duty of protecting the people and keeping the area safe.

"Those are not violations of human rights. When they are forced by the military to stay on the side, it is because it is for their own good. If the military will decide not to allow you to enter your house, it is because you will be hit," he said.