In the face of President Duterte’s plan to abolish the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Malacañang on Thursday said officials of the CHR could be fired any time, noting that they serve at the pleasure of the President.
“However, the CHR is a constitutional body and it cannot be abolished by mere legislation. The CHR chairperson and its members, however, serve at the pleasure of the President,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
“Technically, they may be replaced at the pleasure of the President,” he added.
Duterte merely expressed his frustration when he slammed the agency following its supposed interference in the actions of government security forces in conflict-torn Mindanao.
During the President’s State of the Nation Address on Monday, Duterte chided the CHR, saying the security forces were implementing military rule in Mindanao “in good faith.”
Duterte shunned insinuations that there were violations of human rights committed by the police and military.
Vice President Leni Robredo warned yesterday President Duterte against abolishing the CHR, saying such move will strip ordinary Filipinos, especially the poor, of their protection against abuses.
Robredo, a former pro-bono lawyer, said the CHR is a constitutional body and was established as such to prevent human rights violations committed against the people in the past, notably by those in power.
Created under the 1987 Constitution, the CHR is tasked to investigate all forms of human rights abuses involving civil and political rights.
CHR chief’s resignation sought
CHR chairman Chito Gascon should resign instead of finishing his seven-year term, presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said.
Gascon is a known supporter of the Liberal Party and former president Benigno Aquino III, whose allies in the Senate, including detained Sen. Leila de Lima, have been critical of Duterte’s drug war.
“Since he is not functioning as an objective CHR chairman, he should have the decency to resign,” Panelo said.
Let’s just do our job
For his part, Gascon advised Panelo to just focus on his job after the Palace official called for his resignation for supposed lack of objectivity.
“Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion about how each of us should perform our respective mandate. I stand by the full record of my public service, including my tenure as chairman of the CHR,” Gascon said.
“Secretary Panelo should focus on his job – to give the best legal advice to the Office of the President – and I will do my job as best as I can,” Gascon added.