February 22, 2017
MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo yesterday said the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) should be given more teeth to safeguard people’s rights.
In a forum at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, Robredo said the CHR should be given more power to protect human rights in the country.
The vice president said the commission should be made strong enough to monitor and file cases against anybody or any institution, which violates human rights.
Robredo said it is time to amend the 1987 Constitution to give the CHR prosecutorial powers other than only investigatory and recommendatory.
“One such section (in the Constitution) that I think needs to be strengthened is the section on the Commission on Human Rights. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the limited powers of the CHR but they’re merely investigatory and recommendatory, they don’t have prosecutory powers. So parang walang ipin,” she said.
“Mag-iimbestiga sila and after the investigation they will send their recommendation to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Pagdating sa DOJ, that’s another ball game altogether. So ang dami-daming mga recommendations ng CHR na hindi na-a-act-upon by the DOJ. So perhaps it is time to strengthen the CHR, give it more teeth by giving it prosecutorial powers already, she added.
Created under the 1987 Constitution, the CHR became officially organized on May 5, 1987 under Executive Order 163 issued by then President Corazon Aquino.
The CHR derives its powers and authorities from national and international statutes.
Its mandate is to investigate human rights violations, monitor government compliance with international human rights obligations, provide human rights education and training, among others.
Aside from strengthening the CHR, the vice president also wanted to enact law implementing the anti-dynasty provision and a law allowing for greater public participation in government.
Robredo stressed that there is no need to completely revamp the country’s Constitution.
But she said “perhaps it is time to expand Article 13” and other provisions of the Constitution to further guarantee social justice and human rights for Filipinos.
The vice president further noted that lawmakers should introduce amendments to some provisions to keep up with the times.
“A constitution is supposed to be the basic framework containing the values and principles of one country. So it is not an instrument that should be or can be ammended at the whim of a leader, at the whim of congress or a group of people,” she said.
“But having said that, the constitution should also be fluid and evolving to keep up with the times,” she added.
Robredo, a lawyer, said the Constitution “is not just a set of supreme laws and provisions for our compliance.”
She noted that it was crafted in response to human rights violations during the martial law.
“It is the story of our nation, one that has fought hard for its independence, one that still fights for peace and justice for all,” she said.
President Duterte earlier said he wanted to change the current Philippine Constitution to pave way for the shift to a federal system government.
But realization of this plan still seems far from reach. – MBL