ConCom seeks expansion of CHR mandate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 21) — The Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution recommended the expansion of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

ConCom Chairman Reynato Puno said the committee proposes to elevate the status of the CHR as an independent constitutional commission.

According to Puno, the ConCom wanted to include in the CHR's mandate not only the protection against violations to human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution but also protection against violations of rights covered by international human rights covenants and treaties to which the Philippines is a party.

"They are mandated to protect and to include not only violations of the rights guaranteed by the constitution but also violations of rights covered by international human rights covenants and treaties to which the Philippines is a party," Puno said.

He added that he also wants the CHR to go after all violators of human rights including non-state actors.  As of now, the mandate of the CHR is to only go after state actors like the police and military members who violate human rights.

"We shall end that limitation. After all, the reality is that a great number of violators of human rights come also from non-state actors," the former Chief Justice said.

The Concom also wants to give the CHR the power to grant immunity and establish a witness protection program, a power that is currently only with the Department of Justice.

"Currently, it is only the Department of Justice that has witness protection program but this is ineffective when the perceived violator of human rights is the government itself," said Puno.

Lastly, Puno said the Concom wants the CHR to have the authority to investigate not only civil and political rights violations but also violations of the socio-economic and environment rights. This means that the committee will be able to investigate violations on the people's right to health, right to clean air and water, or right to a healthy environment among others.

For her part CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel agrees with the proposals of the committee.

She added that it would be better if the functions and duties of the CHR as stated in the Constitution would be clearer so it will no longer be questioned.

"Mas maganda talaga klaro ang lahat ng aming functions and duties at ilagay na sa konstitusyon para wala nang mag-question," Pimentel said.

[Translation: It would be better if our functions and duties were made clear in the Constitution so that people will not question our mandate.]