Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa on Tuesday urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to hire lawyers who pro-government and pro-state security forces.
At the Senate committee on finance hearing on the proposed 2021 national budget, Dela Rosa said the CHR should fill up the 175 vacant positions in the agency and not limit its recruitment process to human rights lawyers.
Dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, observed that the CHR seems to have an unwritten policy of hiring lawyers who are not inclined to support government, the military or the police.
“Nakikita ko parang kulang sa attraction ‘yung ginagawa ninyong recruitment. Sana huwag niyong i-limit ‘yung recruitment ninyo (I think you’re recruitment lacks attraction and appeal. I hop you are not limiting your recruitment to certain qualifications),” Dela Rosa told CHR officials during the hearing.
“Baka may unwritten qualifications kayo diyan na dapat ‘yung papasok na CHR ay hindi pro-government, hindi pro-military o hindi pro-police (One might think you have an unwritten qualification that you won’t be accepting in the CHR any applicant who is pro- government, pro military or pro-police),” he added.
Dela Rosa further cited the case of former CHR Commissioner Dominador Calamba II, a lawyer and a reserve officer of the military, whom he said served as CHR Davao Region director before he became a commissioner.
“He (Atty. Calamba) was a human rights lawyer at the same time, he was a reservist in the military. Reserve officer po siya, kaya he can play both sides and he was very effective,” he pointed out.
“Naiimbestigahan niya ako noon (He investigated me before). He can just get inside the camp and conduct investigations dahil siya ay (because he is) reservist. Kaya (That is why he is) very effective po siya sa kanyang (in his) mandate as a human rights investigator,” he stressed.
CHR Commissioner Chito Gascon thanked the senator for his suggestion but disputed the latter’s observation, saying the CHR never considered political affiliation in its recruitment and promotion process.
“We just focus on the qualification standards,” Gascon said.
However, the CHR cannot boost its recruitment because they cannot offer higher pay and allowances the same way other government agencies can.
“For lawyers, it’s very difficult to attract lawyers in the regions, given the fact that we have low salary grade positions and very minimal, if nothing, in terms of allowances,” CHR executive director Jacqueline Ann de Guia told senators.
According to Gascon, the entry level position for lawyers has been raised to Salary Grade 23 or more than P75,000. But the applicants prefer to work in agencies that offer higher allowances.
Gascon, however, vowed to beef up the agencies’ recruitment process to fill the vacant positions in the CHR in the next three to four months.
Nevertheless, Dela Rosa said he would support the CHR’s budget despite the fact he has been at odds with the agency especially on the issue of extrajudicial killings linked to the government’s war on drugs.
“I would like the CHR to know, I know they were very much worried that I will block their budget in this hearing. Rest assured, as early as now, I am not like other legislators who will use the power of the purse to get even against their opponents,” the lawmaker said.
“I am happy that you immediately condemned the twin bombings in Jolo, Sulu and I hope that you will also be quick in condemning atrocities committed by the communist groups,” Dela Rosa stressed.