Press Release
July 8, 2019

CHR should have own charter - De Lima

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has stressed the need to urgently expand and strengthen the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by giving the agency its own charter that could truly empower it as an institution.

In filing Senate Bill (SB) No. 183, De Lima noted that a CHR Charter will help bridge the disconnect between the ostracized opinion against human rights defenders and the important role the CHR in the society.

"It is not uncommon that popular opinion may not fully appreciate the status of the CHR as the highest government machinery in the protection of human rights," said the lady Senator from Bicol.

"To empower the CHR as an institution through a Charter will therefore not only reinforce the recommendations and recognition of its contribution to safeguard fundamental rights and freedom but will serve the higher purpose of institutionalization of treaty commitments by the Philippine government," she added.

Note that the CHR, as with other human rights defenders, has been on the receiving end of scathing remarks and threats from no less than Mr. Duterte himself and his lackeys since the President assumed his post in June 2016.

With almost three decades in existence, De Lima said the CHR has served countless Filipinos through its programs and services amid facing challenges in terms of resources and extent of its mandate.

"It is worth nothing that the need to strengthen the CHR is often raised in important forums, domestic and overseas," said De Lima, former CHR chairperson.

SB No. 183, or the "Commission on Human Rights Act of 2019," would give more teeth to the CHR in fulfilling its constitutional mandate of investigating all forms of human rights violations and would also strengthen its power in providing appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons in the country, and monitoring the government's compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights.

De Lima, who first filed the similar measure in 2016, underscored the urgency of providing CHR with its own charter, considering how the commission has been operating without a charter since its inception in 1987.

"The investigation of human rights violations shall not be subject to any statute of limitations or prescriptive period," said De Lima.

In addition, CHR is tasked to perform its Gender and Child Ombud roles, and issue human rights directives, observations, and advisories directed to all concerned agencies of government for their implementation, among others. The lady Senator from Bicol also underscored the obligation of the CHR to establish a program of human rights promotion and advocacy through education and training to enhance respect for the primacy of human rights.

"It shall likewise administer a Mandatory and Continuing Human Rights Education Program for the military, police, and other law enforcement agencies, as well as public school teachers," she said.

During the 17th Congress, De Lima, one of the women human rights defenders under threat in the Philippines, filed Senate Bill No. 1497 that standardizes human rights as a separate and specialized subject for students in elementary, high school, and college levels.

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