CHR Commissioner Pimentel-Gana shares her views on P1K budget
MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is mandated to investigate government abuses and not primarily ordinary crimes, an official said Monday.
The agency has drawn flak online for allegedly failing to investigate rape and other crimes committed by drug addicts while being vocal in its opposition to President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-narcotics drive.
"We are, in simple terms, like a conscience of the government. We are mandated to actually monitor any abuses done by what we call duty-bearers, and government is a duty-bearer," Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana told ANC's Headstart.
"Agencies of government are duty-bearers in a sense that they are obliged and mandated to render services to the people, and people are rights-holders. As rights-holders, we can demand from government to fulfill the rights that we have in order to live in a just and humane society," she said.
Responding to questions why the CHR is not investigating killings caused by drug addicts, Gana again emphasized that because it is a crime, the police should respond first and their job is to "monitor that case."
Gana explained that, for example, a suspect killed while in the custody of the police is "not a regular occurrence because if you are supposed to be in the custody of the police, you are supposed to be protected," and that a suspect has to go through due process as provided by law.
"In that case where the life of an individual while in the custody of the police has been taken, we in the CHR, we are mandated to investigate whether the life was taken arbitrarily because everyone has a right to life," she said.
On the other hand, if a cop is killed by a suspect resisting arrest, Gana said it is the police force who should be the "primary investigator," not the CHR.
"The police are the first responders and that is their obligation, to check. It’s a crime scene. They should find out how it happened. It’s incumbent upon them to start the investigation," she said.
In cases where crime, such as rape, is allegedly committed by a cop, Gana said it should still be the police who must stay on top of it, but the victim may approach the CHR to investigate.
She added, they also entertain complaints where the violator is a civilian, not a state figure, but they can only give legal advice and guide the complainants and oversee whether charges have been filed.
In upholding its mandate to investigate "all forms of human rights violations," including those done by the police, Gana said the commission "monitors" the cases filed and gives importance to the aspect of who committed the violation.
"If you say that a violation was done and it was brought to court, we monitor now how the case will progress because a fiscal can violate a right of a victim, of a policeman, or even a court can violate. It’s a process that we look into—where was the abuse done?" she said.
The House of Representatives last week voted to give the agency on P1,000 as its budget for next year, and Gana is hopeful legislators will "reconsider" their move and realize that they and the CHR "are partners in the protection of the rights of every individual."
"When you say support, we are supporting (the government) in a way that we are helping them become better in their delivery of service and protecting the rights of the people," she said.
"We are partners because when we investigate, it is not to destroy government, it is not to be an opposition just for the heck of being opposition. It’s more to aid government to be better duty-bearers in helping out, fulfilling the rights of every individual," she added.
"They should not hate us for doing that because that is our mandate."