April 22, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – Even if presidential aspirant Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte opted not to file a response, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Jose Luis Martin Gascon on Thursday said the proceeding on the complaint filed against the tough-talking mayor by several women’s groups will continue.
“Due process and rule of law dictate that every person should be given the chance to respond to charges,” Gascon said.
“Kung sakali talagang hindi gagamitin ang pagkakataon na sagutin ang complaint, itutuloy lang namin ang proseso ng pagdinig nito hanggang makaabot sa isang kapasyahan,” he added.
The CHR chair issued the statement in reply to Duterte’s announcement that he will not answer the summons of the CHR and will merely throw it away.
On Wednesday, the mayor said no one can question his actions as he was merely exercising his constitutional right of freedom of expression.
“You know, this is a democracy. There is a Constitution… Freedom of expression. It is a sacred right. Nobody can question my mouth,” he said.
Duterte also told the CHR and those who filed a complaint against him to “go to hell.”
Women’s groups led by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia on Wednesday trooped to the CHR to file a complaint against Duterte for allegedly violating Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women of 2009, which protects women from all forms of discrimination and abuse.
The groups said Duterte showed his utter disregard and respect for women during his speeches in campaign rallies.
They said the latest incident was when the mayor commented that he should have been the first to rape Australian lay missionary Jacqueline Hamill, who was raped and killed in 1989.
Gascon clarified that the CHR, as the Gender Ombudsman mandated by the Magna Carta of Women, has received the complaint by the women’s groups and part of the process is to give the “respondent Mayor Duterte” an opportunity to respond to the complaint.
“All public officials have a sworn duty to uphold the constitution and laws of the land. Thus, our doors remain open (for Duterte),” he said.
“Ang panawagan lamang ng CHR ay sundan natin ang lahat ng ‘due processes of law’ dito man sa usaping ito at maging anuman usapin ng karapatang pantao,” he added.
Gascon earlier said the case was not dependent on the current election and campaign schedules.
He said it will continue even after the May elections, no matter what the electoral result.
Once the complaint is decided, Gascon said the CHR will provide recommendations to appropriate government agency if Duterte remains a public servant or to the court if the mayor is already a private citizen.
He reminded candidates especially those seeking the highest office in the land to be more cautious in making statements that wittingly or unwittingly undermine the rights of women. – MBL