Rights body hopes ‘open mind, heart’ from new Senators

Michael Joe Delizo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2019 03:54 PM | Updated as of May 24 2019 04:29 PM

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MANILA – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is girding for the second half of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, as his allies are expected to the Senate. 

“We hope that they will keep an open mind and an open heart,” CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said of the fresh set of legislators. 

“Hindi nangangahulugan na kapag kami ay sumalungat sa kanilang gusto ay against the government na. Ang demokrasya kasi dapat pinakikinggan lahat ng boses, hindi lang ng mayorya.”

(It does not mean that when we oppose, we are already against the government. Democracy works when you listen to all the voices, not just the majority.)

Personalities long known to be close to President Rodrigo Duterte has secured Senate seats. 

Former police chief Ronald Dela Rosa was Duterte's top cop when he was mayor in Davao City and was the chief enforcer of his anti-drug campaign when the latter became President. He has vowed to push for the revival of the death penalty, a legislative priority of the administration. 

Duterte's long-time aide Christopher Go also succeeded in his Senate bid. Both he and Dela Rosa have said they would not be the President's rubber stamp in the chamber. 

Most of the other winning candidates were endorsed by the President even while they were not part of his party.

The rights body has had thorny relations with the administration as it kept watch over government's deadly anti-drug campaign and criticized the President's off-the-cuff statements. 

The President once warned of abolishing the body as its investigations have only been supposedly “one-sided” in favor of criminals and against law enforcers. He later said it was just a joke. 

“To be fair to this administration, despite all the pronouncements, including the pronouncements of the President that he wanted us to be abolished, it has not happened yet because we are entrenched in the Constitution. There were also attempts to slash our budget, but at the end of the day, it also did not happen,” Dumpit said. 

In 2017, the House of Representatives threatened to slash the agency's 2018 budget to P1,000, but it was later restored

For 2019, the CHR was given a P750-million allocation, enough to support its operations, the Commissioner said. 

Dumpit said the agency is ready to engage with new lawmakers while continuing to uphold human rights standards and principles, and state obligations. 

“Hindi po kami nagbabago ng aming stand porke may ibang administration na dumadating (We do not change our stand no matter what administration comes),” she said. 

“Time in, time out, since the start of the Commission on Human Rights when it was created, we have been against measures that we see that are trampling upon or have the tendency to harm the enjoyment of human rights.”