[Press Release] PAHRA: CHR Commissioners as defenders or violators of human rights?

Human rights group: CHR Commissioners as defenders or violators of human rights?

PAHRA in a presscon CHR Commissioners as defenders or violators of human rights

A human rights group demanded in a press conference on September 26,2013 that alleged acts and practices of corruption of the two Commissioners of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) be investigated promptly and effectively by an independent committee.

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The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), along with 20 other civil society organizations, in November 2012, has made an evaluation of the CHRP’s performance among others. In its report submitted to President Benigno Aquino III, it cited among others the CHRP’s fragmented leadership with below-par performance. CSO Assessment and Dialogue with CHR Nov & Dec 2012 for pax (2)

Recent actions of alleged human rights abuses committed by CHR Commissioners Norberto de la Cruz and Cecilia Raquel Quisumbing had surfaced from their former staff. Cited, among others, were using violence against a driver, ill-treatment of the staff and cases of corruption, such as turning CHRP drivers into family drivers and tolerating minimal presence in their job but collecting full salaries.

Ms. Regina Eugenio, a former staff of Commissioner Quisumbing, said she and her co-staff experienced ill-treatment from Commissioner Quisumbing. “Hindi na naming masikmura ang pagyurak sa aming dignidad at pagkatao,” (We could no longer stand the trampling on our dignity and humanity.) Ms Eugenio explained as the reason for their resignation. The said staff no longer wanted to be treated like “robots”. Ms. Eugenio and her co-staff’s resignations were stopped and were instead unjustly fired by Commissioner Quisumbing.

“Makakatanggap pa sila ng retirement pension mula sa gobyerno sa kabila ng kanilang paglabag sa karapatang pantao!” expressed by Mr. Nemesio Mendoza, former staff and driver of Commissioner Norberto de la Cruz.

“The present situation is unacceptable,” said Max de Mesa, Chairperson of PAHRA, “and must not be tolerated any further.”

After receiving un-substantive responses from the Commissioners themselves when the evaluation and these incidents have been discreetly but formally conveyed, PAHRA had written the President, who is the appointing authority for the Commissioners of the CHRP.

It must be called to mind that in two years time, Pres. Aquino has to appoint a new set of CHRP Commissioners.

PAHRA’s National Executive Committee (NEC), in its letter, has called on the President, as Chief Executive and Appointing Authority that to ensure the irreversible shift of his administration to a paradigm of human rights:

  • To designate an independent committee of inquiry regarding these incidents, as well as their causes, and to recommend measures and actions that would strengthen the CHR;
  • To take persuasive action on the two Commissioners so that they would take a leave of absence so as to obtain an environment of openness free of possible harassment and intimidation during the time of inquiry;
  • To certify as urgent the passage of the new Charter of the CHR with the added provisions on the selection process of the Commissioners and the Mechanism for Transparency and Accountability of the Commissioners and Directors;
  • To create a committee that would propose a process of selection for the next new members of the CHR similar to the selection of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

De Mesa emphasized that “this critique is not to destroy the CHRP but rather to strengthen it as a primary institution of women and men who are suppose to be guides and guardians of human rights.” “And ensuring the State’s obligations on human rights are fulfilled,” he concluded.

Other related documents:

letter to Pres. B. Aquino on CHR

LETTER ON ERODED INTEGRITY OF CHR

Press release
26 September 2013

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