Sereno to lawyers: Upholding human rights not only up to CHR

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Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 23) — Silence and inaction about crime can be misconstrued for indifference.

This was stressed by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as she urged lawyers to be more active in prosecuting criminals, and to prevent "publicity seekers" from owning the issue of making the police accountable for unsolved crimes.

"You, the IBP and the legitimate law and paralegal organizations, must exert the same pressure on the police and the prosecution to solve and successfully prosecute the assailants," Sereno said on Thursday.

Silence about "rape, murder, and similarly horrendous activities," Sereno said, may be perceived as complicity and indifference.

"When murder and rapes are being committed in such frequency and gore, you must expect people to be angry. They will not understand if you try to protect the right to life of a drug suspect, when the community is of the belief that drug suspects are the perpetrators of these crimes," Sereno said.

The Chief Justice said protection and promotion of human rights are not only up to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), but also in other entities like the Judiciary, the Ombudsman, the Civil Service, and the Commission on Audit.


"Protection of human rights can only be fully accepted by the people if we have a fully functional justice sector," Sereno said.

The Chief Justice urged the lawyers to listen to the Supreme Court's oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Philippine National Police (PNP)'s anti-illegal drug operations.

On Tuesday, human rights lawyers organization Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) called on Supreme Court justices to "guide" the police in enforcing government orders on anti-drug operations.

READ: Petitioners call on SC to 'guide' police with anti-drug operations

The next round of oral arguments will be on November 28, where the government will defend  its anti-illegal drugs program.

Sereno also urged the practitioners of the legal profession to "rethink" their position regarding human rights issues.

"We will minimize the spectacle of kibitzers thrusting themselves in the public eye when they cannot even boast of the kind of track record of public service that you have," Sereno said.

The Chief Justice also called on independent institutions - namely the Judiciary, the Ombudsman, and the Constitutional Commissions on Audit, Civil Service, and Human Rights - to promote accountability.

"The civil society and the bar (IBP) must exert pressure on institutions of accountability and justice agencies to ensure that impunity ends, accountability is consistently exacted, the rule of law is stabilized and resultantly, human rights are protected," Sereno said.

The embattled Chief Justice did not say anything about the impeachment proceedings against her at the House of Representatives.

READ: Sereno lawyers: Fast-track impeachment, bring it to Senate

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Justice started its deliberations on determining if there is probable cause to proceed with the impeachment of the Chief Justice.

The House panel invited Sereno and complainant Atty. Larry Gadon.

Sereno was represented by her lawyers, but the panel did not allow them to cross-examine Gadon.

READ: House panel prohibits Chief Justice's lawyers from participating in impeachment proceeding

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.