Press Release
August 26, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today deplored the marginalization of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an independent body created by the Constitution, owing to the failure of Malacañang to give it the importance it deserves and to provide it with the necessary budgetary support for the effective discharge of its functions.

Pimentel said there was absolutely no need for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to create the commission, chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, to investigate political and media killings since this is already being done by the five-man CHR, headed by Chairperson Purificacion Quisumbing.

The Constitution mandates the CHR to investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights.

In fact, Pimentel cited a report by CHR commissioner and officer-in-charge Quintin Badelles-Cueto III that the CHR has submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) a total of 423 cases of political killings, abductions, involuntary disappearances and other forms of human rights violations that it investigated between January 2005 and June, 2006.

In other words, the Melo Commission is merely duplicating the job of the Commission on Human Rights. This is unfair and insulting to the CHR considering that it has not been remiss in performing its constitutional duty of investigating violations of human rights, Pimentel said.

He said that since a huge number of political killings has already been investigated by the CHR, Malacañang should have focused its attention on the prosecution of these cases which are pending with the offices of government prosecutors or fiscals in various provinces and cities of the country.

Even Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has reportedly said that there was no need for the creation of the Melo Commission since government prosecutors are already in the process of resolving cases of political killings referred to them by the CHR.

For his part, Commissioner/OIC Cueto said that the CHR can very well do the job of investigating the extra-judicial killings of leftist activists and journalists but it needs additional funding, especially for the protection of witnesses.

As reported by the CHR, the 423 cases of human rights violations that it has investigated were referred to the offices of prosecutors as follows:

National Capital Region, 67 cases; Cordillera Autonomous Region, 1; Ilocos Region, 20; Cagayan Valley, 23; Central Luzon, 6; Southern Tagalog, 5; Bicol Region, 45; Western Visayas, 9; Central Visayas, 7; Eastern Visayas, 9; Western Mindanao, 24; Northern Mindanao, 138; Southern Mindanao, 46; and Central Mindanao, 23.

Pimentel also stressed that while the Melo Commission is tasked with looking into the killings of leftist militants and journalists, it is only President Arroyo who can really stop these killings by issuing a strong and categorical order to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.

I want to hear the President tell the military field commanders that if these extra-judicial killings are not stopped in their respective areas of jurisdiction, they will be relieved of their posts and subjected to other administrative sanctions. Otherwise, her public condemnation of political killings will amount to nothing but an empty rhetoric, Pimentel said.

Pimentel, meanwhile, called on the Senate to approve his bill granting the CHR to prosecute cases of human rights violations in addition to its investigative function.

If Congress enacts a law empowering the CHR to prosecute the cases of human rights violations that it has investigated, then there is no need for these cases to be referred to the prosecutors. And the CHR can go straight to the courts, he explained.

Unless the CHR is granted the power to prosecute, it will remain a weak constitutional body, ill-equipped to fulfill its mandate to protect the human rights of Filipinos.

The proposal conforms with the provision of the Constitution that the powers and functions of the CHR can be expanded by Congress through legislation.

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