The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday, March 16, assured its full support and cooperation in the government’s probes on human rights violations, like those on extra-judicial killings (EJKs) and deaths resulting in illegal drugs operations.
Last Sunday, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra announced the participation of the CHR in the investigation on the March 7 deaths of nine activists in South Luzon provinces.
Guevarra said the inter-agency committee formed in 2012 to investigate EJK incidents reached out to the CHR to help in the probe.
The CHR is an independent constitutional office that investigates all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights.
Under Administrative Order No. 35 that created the inter-agency committee, the participation of the CHR in the committee is limited to being “observer and resource person.”
Through Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia, the CHR said Guevarra’s statement was a welcome development for the commission which has been keen in ensuring that human rights are upheld in all illegal drugs operations.
“We hope that this initiative paves the way for a more meaningful partnership between the current administration and CHR as we also strive and guide government to be more faithful to its human rights obligations and commitments,” De Guia, a lawyer, said.
De Guia said the CHR and the Department of Justice (DOJ) signed in September 2020 a Data Sharing Agreement (DSA) which was viewed as a way for victims and their families to access crucial information regarding the deaths of their loved ones.
“CHR has been unceasingly calling for greater transparency on the part of government, especially in sharing information on the many forms of human rights violations that we also seek to be investigated. With the said DSA, albeit still limited, we have seen an opportunity for cooperation,” she said.
But the CHR lamented that it was excluded in the review of cases which have been investigated by the inter-agency panel and submitted to President Duterte.
“We regret that the CHR was not involved in the review, contrary to the commitments and assurances made by the government during the 44th Session of the Human Rights Council. This is an unfulfilled promise to Filipinos and the entire community of nations,” CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said.
Dumpit said the CHR exerted efforts that it be involved in the review. “It is our view that the best way in improving the human rights situation in the country is through inclusive and constructive engagement between the government, independent monitoring mechanisms, and civil society,” she said.