Speech of Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales During the ANNI Activity
April 23, 2012
“AN OVERVIEW OF CHR WORK OVER THE PAST NINETEEN MONTHS” September 1, 2011 to April 2012
As known teacher leader of the human rights movement that fought the late Mr. Marcos, my credentials were clear as human rights advocate. My six years as Chair of the House Committee on Human Rights where the newly elected President was onetime Chair and member added to this track record, but my strong criticism of certain factions of the Left had kept me controversial among these factions of civil society.
When news came out sometime in June 2010 that I was a possible candidate to chair the Commission on Human Rights with the appointment of then Chair De Lima as Department of Justice Secretary, Left leaders from the human rights movement protested strongly and gradually merged their protest to certain voices from the CHR stating that the Paris Principles must guide the decision of the elected President in his choice of the CHR Chair. These loud protests made me controversial before the public and so the President took his time until close to three months, asked me if I was ready before he appointed me as Chair.
The new administration started in July but it was only in September where my appointment became official and, before the month was over, I slipped and fell in the hotel where we had our conference on the implementing rules of R.A. 9745, the Anti-Torture Act and broke my humerus located in my right upper arm. I had a major surgery but by December I slipped again and the same broken bone was affected. But a badly broken arm of the Chair did not stop the CHR from coming up with a roadmap which was presented lengthily in Malacanang, forcing the President to shorten his speech, as the joke was carried on several days after.
There were two fundamental messages in the Roadmap Speech on December 10, 2010.
- First, the speech underscored the CHR perspective of itself as a national human rights institution. CHR saw itself evolving as a Comprehensive Monitor engaged in investigation and monitoring of the entire range of human rights from civil, political to economic, social and cultural. The 1987 Charter was explicit in the first set of rights but silent when it came to economic, social and cultural rights. This is particularly important because practice in these nineteen months of work would show that investigation of civil and political rights violations cannot be dichotomized and made separate from the economic and social underpinnings of these violations. There were two resolutions deliberated on involving these issues: a Resolution calling for the scrutiny and investigation by the DENR of a sixteen-year program of large scale mining in a little village called DIDIPIO in Northeast Luzon. The issue remains controversial and so far, despite CHR repeated warnings, Oceanagold, the mining company, is progressing in getting the government’s full consent to allow mining operations in the village. Evidently, the issue is now part of a call for government to review its mining policies as mining operations easily spawn internal conflict when business operations are provided protection by law enforcers such as the police. Outside of DIDIPIO, we have subsequent ongoing investigation on reported casualties on the ground brought about by armed conflict between the security forces and oftentimes rebel groups who recruit IPs to join them. These cases are found in Regions 9, 13, and 5 where armed conflict is common staple normally followed by the evacuation of residents.
- A second basic lesson put forward by the Roadmap was the focus on human rights as a perspective in addressing corruption to pave the way to development. Cleaning government of corruption does not automatically lead to an end to poverty. Only a rights-based approach to governance and development can ensure the protection and fulfillment of the rights of those without access to justice.
Outside of DIDIPIO, another controversial issue tackled in the last quarter of 2010, my first quarter of work, was the issue of women’s rights against discrimination where women workers of PAL Airlines were made to retire at the age of forty to give way to young airline hostesses in their twenties. Because the Chair took a strong position in favor of the PAL employees and because we succeeded in supporting the Department of Labor in protecting the rights of workers, FASAP, the coalition of Airline stewards and stewardesses, expressed its appreciation to the CHR who came to their rescue in the thick of battle.
On hindsight, the call for the Paris Principles as guideline coming from the Commission on Human Rights could not have been more apt in underscoring the present state of affairs at the level of policy making. Prior to my assumption of Chairmanship, under the prior administration, the choice of Commissioners did not go through these UN guidelines but was a product of individual influential voices where human rights track record as criterion did not fully define the choice of commissioner. True to tradition, it was whom you knew that put you in place; hence, the differences in decision-making reflects the diverse perspectives used with a penchant for what is legal, rather than for what defines human rights felt among certain individual commissioners.
As an important provision in the Charter Bill of the CHR, the Paris Principles appears an imperative in strengthening the collective leadership of the Commission.
- Bureaucratic Inertia and the Need for a Common Language
If I were to be asked what I see as the major obstacle to advancing human rights within the Commission, I would readily point to bureaucratic inertia as the culprit. I felt then and I still do now that only when the Commission develops a common language in human rights can we genuinely move forward. As the Philippine National Police Human Rights Affairs Officers (HRAOs) repeatedly explain, learning human rights means first and foremost learning the laws that protect the ordinary citizens from criminal offenses. Ignorance of the law makes a law enforcer vulnerable to committing human rights violations. If this is true for the police and the military, it certainly is true too for members of the Commission.
The bureaucratic inertia that obstructs certain sections of the Commission from accomplishing their work through cooperation with other sections has contributed to gross inefficiency and delay in the delivery of services by the Commission. A case in point is the proper and efficient management of cases of human rights violations. Upon review of the performance of all fifteen regional offices in the completion of the cases filed within their offices, I was shocked to find out that there is a backlog of close to 12,000 cases, 11,730 to be exact from the old data base of the Third Commission from the years 2000 to 2008 that need to be sorted out and organized. Under the Fourth Commission, there are three regional offices that have distinguished themselves as laggards in the completion and submission of their cases for litigation in both the executive and judicial branches of government.
Until such time that these regional offices are able to internalize the fact that delay in the submission of completed human rights cases is a denial of justice and therefore a violation of the citizen’s right to access to justice, the Commission will continue to be remiss in the delivery of its services to the general public. In this regard, the Commission will be contributing to, rather than solving the problem of human rights violations.
- The Inter-relatedness and Inter-action of CHR Work in Addressing its Mandate
Under Article XIII of the Constitution entitled ‘Human Rights’, Sections 18 and 19 provide the Commission a broad mandate that includes the whole range of human rights that must be protected through legal and preventive measures. Section 18, paragraph 3 in particular underscores “appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons x x x and provide for preventive measures and legal aid services to the underprivileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection”. I ask you, how many of the 11,730 backlog cases are those of the “underprivileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection”? And yet this was not a problem of priority in the agenda at the highest level of policy-making when I came in as Chair; it was a problem we discovered recently when we were trying to rationalize data from the regions with data through manual and electronic inputs.
There are two strategies we are working on to resolve this gross problem I have mentioned and these have to do with fulfilling our Constitutional mandate “to establish a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance respect for the primacy of human rights” (Section 18, par. 5) which apparently need to be internalized in their individual functions and in their inter-relatedness for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights.
I am proud to say that under the current leadership of the 4 th Commission, we have just finished codifying our Manual on Internal Rules of Procedure and rationalizing this with our Manual on Case Management which will have to be rationalized with the Martus Executive Information System (MAREIS) which, in turn, is digitizing the flow of information from the folders of investigators in all the fifteen regions to the National Offices. We need a common language and understanding of the definition of what human rights violations are, using international norms, domestic statutes and CHR resolutions and advisories. In this regard, we hope to fulfill with more depth and breadth our mandate as provided in Article 13, Section 18, paragraph 5 (13/18/5) which calls for establishing “a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance respect for the primacy of human rights”.
- We are in the process of analyzing data from the specific cases submitted by the regions to the National Office. This is work in progress, but we hope to institutionalize our delivery of evidence-based information to the public quarterly through analysis of statistics regularly submitted from the region.
- We are making more efficient the completion of cases and subsequent submission for litigation. In this manner, the cases that are completed can provide rich material for continuing human rights education especially to the members of the Commission, the security forces and the members of the Criminal Justice System with whom we are establishing agreements on human rights-related activities. The recent MOA with the Department of Justice last April 16 is an example of this effort.
- We are focused in a program localizing human rights based approach to governance, development and social protection. The rich experiences of the CHR through grassroots regional work can provide models for learning and discussion on the ground.
- A historical breakthrough is the Regional Office we are setting in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where we hope to cut the ribbon for opening the new human rights office that will be located in the Office of the Regional Government Complex (ORG).
- Solidarity with the International Community and Civil Society
Last, but not least, is the continuing and strengthening ties with solidarity groups in the human rights movement at both international and local levels. As former Chair of the Southeast Asian National Human Rights Institution Forum (I would have preferred to chair the regional grouping in my second year of office), I saw the rich potential of solidarity work among NHRIs in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific (APF).
Now, as Vice-Chair of the Business and Human Rights Group of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC), I am exposed to the global network of NHRIs which I find most inspiring as I see the potentials of NHRIs in their domestic capacity in broad alliance with CSOs and NHRIs coming together in regional groupings that can parallel regional governments or collectively address individual nations within their regional area of jurisdiction.
I end up by saying that NHRIs have no other direction but to strengthen themselves internally as individual human rights mechanisms in order to exercise their mandate within their own countries, but keeping in mind that we live in a global village where we do have a role to play in building our international community of human rights through networking and deepening our human relations with each other by respecting each other’s dignity and integrity within the framework of human rights.
Loretta Ann P. Rosales
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