CHR: We are not the opposition; we are gov't conscience

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2017 01:19 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights said Thursday it was not out to topple the administration and was only helping the government by acting as its conscience.

This comes after Duterte hit anew CHR Chair Chito Gascon, whom the chief executive claimed was "for the opposition who wants me out of the presidency."

"Definitely, we have no agenda on that,” Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana told ANC’s Headstart after she was asked if the CHR had any motive to oust Duterte.

"We are not the opposition. As a matter of fact, we are here to help the government to protect and to promote the rights of every individual," she said.

"We are, in simple terms, like a conscience of the government," she added.

Gana said she has "not seen any overt act" to point that Gascon was conniving with the Liberal Party.

Gana, sister of Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, said their agency is mandated to monitor any alleged abuse by "duty-bearers," including government.

"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," she said.

"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 added.

The House of Representatives last week voted to slash CHR's budget, leaving it with only P1,000 for 2018, amid the agency's staunch opposition to Duterte's war against illegal drugs.

The budget slash, said Gana, will affect not only their operations, but also their independence as a "constitutionally created body."

"We must be respected as an institution that should remain independent. If you take our budget away and leave us with P1,000, in effect you are rendering us inutile and in effect also abolishing practically the Commission on Human Rights," she said.

The budget bill of the CHR still has to go through the Senate and the bicameral conference committee before it is signed by the President.

Duterte has said that the House's decision may still be reviewed, and senators have said they will fight for the restoration of the P623.38-million budget of the agency or augment it.