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Commission on Human Rights (Philippines)

The Commission on Human Rights (Filipino: Komisyon sa Karapatang Pantao) (CHR) is an


independent constitutional office created under the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, with the
primary function of investigating all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political
rights in the Philippines.[2]
The Commission is composed of a Chairperson and four members. Commissioners hold a term of
office of seven years without reappointment. The Philippine Constitution requires that a majority of
the Commission’s members must be lawyers. As a National Human Rights Institution, the
Commission enjoys Status A accreditation by the International Coordinating Committee of National
Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

History[edit]
After the ratification of the 1987 Philippine Constitution on 2 February 1987, which provides for the
establishment of a Commission on Human Rights, President Corazon Aquino, signed Executive
Order No. 163 on May 5, 1987, creating the Commission on Human Rights and abolished the
Presidential Committee on Human Rights. [4] The Commission was created as an independent office
mandated to investigate complaints of human rights violations, promote the protection of, respect for
and the enhancements of the people's human rights including civil and political rights.
Duterte administration[edit]
On 24 July 2017 during his State of the Nation Address (SONA), Philippine president Rodrigo
Duterte said that the commission was "better abolished."[5] The CHR responded in a statement that
only a change to the 1987 Constitution could possibly abolish it.[6]
On the evening of 12 September 2017, the House of Representatives of the Philippines voted 119-
32 to give the CHR a budget of only ₱1,000 for the entire year of 2018, which, if made law, would
effectively abolish the commission.[7] The commission had reportedly asked Congress for a budget
of ₱623,380,000, and it condemned the vote.[8] As of 13 September 2017, the budget had not been
finalized and was still subject to further amendment before approval by the Senate of the
Philippines and by the President.[9] If the Senate rejects the proposed CHR budget, such action will
trigger a bicameral committee made of members of both houses to resolve the dispute.[10]

Mandates and functions[edit]


The Commission derives its mandates from the Constitution, relevant domestic laws, and the eight
core International Human Rights Instruments to which the Philippines is a State Party, as well as
other United Nations Human Rights Conventions newly enforced.
Under Section 18, Article XIII of the Philippine Constitution, the Commission's sole duty is to protect
the civil and political rights of citizens in the Philippines.
Based on the Philippine Constitution, the Commission has a broad mandate, which can be
categorized into three major functional areas:

 Human Rights Protection - Investigation and case management of complaints of violations,


including all the powers and services in aid of investigation, of civil and political rights as well as
economic, social, and cultural rights. Such powers and services include: citing for contempt for
violations of its rules of procedure; legal aid and counseling; visitorial powers over jails and
detention facilities; application of forensic techniques in aid of investigation; witness protection;
and, financial assistance to victims[11]
 Human Rights Promotion, which includes the wide range of strategies for policy, advocacy,
promotion, social mobilization, education, training, public information, communication, research,
networking and linkages [11]
 Human Rights Policy Advisory derived from monitoring government’s compliance with the treaty
obligations that the Philippines has acceded to: International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),
Convention Against Torture and Other Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention Against
Racial Discrimination (CERD), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on the
Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families (CMW); Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities (CRPD). This also includes the entire aspect of monitoring and evaluating the
performance of the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary to translate international human rights
standards into national policies, laws, and practice.[11]
The Supreme Court of the Philippines, in Cariño v. Commission on Human Rights, 204 SCRA 483
(1991), declared that the Commission did not possess the power of adjudication, and emphasized
that its functions were primarily investigatory.[12]
The Commission on Human Rights have the following powers and functions:

1. Investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations
involving civil and political rights
2. Adopt its operational guidelines and rules of procedure, and cite for contempt for violations
thereof in accordance with the Rules of Court
3. Provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons within
the Philippines, as well as Filipinos residing abroad, and provide for preventive measures
and legal aid services to the under-privileged whose human rights have been violated or
need protection
4. Exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detention facilities
5. Establish a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance respect
for the primacy of human rights
6. Recommend to Congress effective measures to promote human rights and to provide for
compensation to victims of violations of human rights, or their families;
7. Monitor the Philippine Government's compliance with international treaty obligations on
human rights
8. Grant immunity from prosecution to any person whose testimony or whose possession of
documents or other evidence is necessary or convenient to determine the truth in any
investigation conducted by it or under its authority;
9. Request the assistance of any department, bureau, office, or agency in the performance of
its functions
10. Appoint its officers and employees in accordance with law
11. Perform such other duties and functions as may be provided by law[13]

Chairperson[edit]
The chairperson and commissioners of the commission have fixed seven-year terms, with Gascon
serving as the commission's chairperson until May 5, 2022.
Qualifications for CHR chairperson are as follows: [14]

1. A natural-born citizen of the Philippines;


2. At least thirty-five years of age; and
3. Has not been a candidate for any elective position preceding their appointment.
Chairpersons of the Commission on Human Rights

Commission Name Took office Left office Appointed by

Mary Concepcion Bautista 1987 1992 Corazon Aquino


1st

Sedfrey A. Ordoñez 1992 1995

Fidel V. Ramos
2nd

Aurora P. Navarette-Reciña 1996 2002

3rd
Purificacion Quisumbing 2002 May 2008
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Leila de Lima May 2008 June 30, 2010
4th
Etta Rosales September 1, 2010 May 5, 2015
Benigno Aquino III
5th Chito Gascon June 18, 2015 Incumbent

Controversies[edit]
Tenure of Chairperson and Commissioners[edit]
In a Press briefing on July 27, 2017, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella claimed that the
CHR Chairperson and its commissioners "serve at the pleasure of the president" and that they may
be replaced at the President's pleasure. [15] This claim was based on the Executive Order No. 163-A
(issued during the presidency of Corazon Aquino in 1987) that amended the Section 2, Sub-
Paragraph (c of Executive Order No.163, stating that "The Chairman and Members of the
Commission on Human Rights shall beappointed by the President. Their tenure in office shall be at
the pleasure of the President." [16]
However, the said executive order was questioned in the Supreme Court in the case: Bautista v.
Salonga, G.R. No. 86439 on April 13, 1989; leading to the declaration of the said executive order as
unconstitutional. Taking a quote from the said Supreme Court ruling, "Indeed, the Court finds it
extremely difficult to conceptualize how an office conceived and created by the Constitution to be
independent as the Commission on Human Rights-and vested with the delicate and vital functions of
investigating violations of human rights, pinpointing responsibility and recommending sanctions as
well as remedial measures therefor, can truly function with independence and effectiveness, when
the tenure in office of its Chairman and Members is made dependent on the pleasure of the
President. Executive Order No. 163-A, being antithetical to the constitutional mandate of
independence for the Commission on Human Rights has to be declared unconstitutional." [17]
CHR as a Constitutional Office[edit]
Under the Article IX of the 1987 Constitution, three constitutional commissions were established
namely: the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and the
Commission on Audit (COA). The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), on the other hand, was
created under the Article XIII, Section 17 of the 1987 constitution and the Administrative Code of
1987. [18][19]
In a Resolution of the Supreme Court contained in G.R. No. 155336, it ruled that the CHR is a
.."constitutional body enjoying limited fiscal autonomy..."[20]

EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 163 May 5, 1987

DECLARING THE EFFECTIVITY OF THE CREATION OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN


RIGHTS AS PROVIDED FOR IN THE 1987 CONSTITUTION, PROVIDING GUIDELINES FOR THE
OPERATION THEREOF, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

WHEREAS, the 1987 Constitution has been ratified by the people;

WHEREAS, the 1987 Constitution has created an Independent office called the Commission on
Human Rights; and

WHEREAS, there is an urgent necessity to constitute the Commission on Human Rights to give
effect to the State policy that "the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full
respect for human rights"

NOW, THEREFORE, I, CORAZON C. AQUINO, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers
vested in me by the Constitution, do hereby order:

Sec. 1. The Commission on Human Rights as provided for under Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution
is hereby declared to be now in existence.

Sec. 2. (a) The Commission on Human Rights shall be composed of a Chairman and four Members
who must be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and, at the time of their appointment, at least
thirty five years of age, and must not have been candidates for any elective position in the elections
immediately preceding their appointment. However, a majority thereof shall be members of the
Philippine Bar.

(b) The Chairman and the Members of the Commission on Human Rights shall not, during
their tenure, hold any other office or employment. Neither shall they engage in the practice of
any profession or in the active management or control of any business which in any way be
affected by the functions of their office, nor shall they be financially interested, directly or
indirectly, in any contract with, or in any franchise or privilege granted by the government,
any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including government-owned or
controlled corporations or their subsidiaries.
(c) The Chairman and the Members of the Commission on Human Rights shall be appointed
by the President for a term of seven years without reappointment. Appointment to any
vacancy shall be only for the expired term of the predecessor.

(d) The Chairman and the Members of the Commission on Human Rights shall receive the
same salary as the Chairman and Members, respectively, of the Constitutional
Commissions, which shall not be decreased during their term of office.

Sec. 3. The Commission of Human Rights shall have the following powers and functions:

(1) Investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations
involving civil and political rights;

(2) Adopt its operational guidelines and rules of procedure, and cite for contempt for
violations thereof in accordance with the Rules of Court.

(3) Provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons
within the Philippines, as well as Filipinos residing abroad, and provide for preventive
measures and legal aid services to the under-privileged whose human rights have been
violated or need protection;

(4) Exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detentions facilities;

(5) Establish a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance


respect for the privacy of human rights;

(6) Recommend to the Congress effective measures to promote human rights and to provide
for compensation to victims of violations of human rights, or their families;

(7) Monitor the Philippine Government's compliance with international treaty obligations on
human rights;

(8) Grant immunity from prosecution to any person whose testimony or whose possession of
documents or other evidence is necessary or convenient to determine the truth in any
investigation conducted by it or under its authority;

(9) Request the assistance of any department, bureau, office, or agency in the performance
of its functions;

(10) Appoint its officers and employees in accordance with law; and

(11) Perform such other duties and functions as may be provided by law.

Sec. 4. The Presidential Committee on Human Rights, created under Executive Order No. 8 dated
March 18, 1986, as modified, is hereby abolished. The Commission on Human Rights shall exercise
such functions and powers of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights under Executive Order
No. 8, as modified, which are not inconsistent with the provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

The unexpended appropriations of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights are hereby
transferred to the Commission on Human Rights. All properties, records, equipment, buildings,
facilities and other assets of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights shall be transferred to the
Commission on Human Rights.

The Commission on Human Rights may retain such personnel of the Presidential Committee on
Human Rights as may be necessary in the fulfillment of its powers and functions. Any public officer
or employee separated from service as a result of the abolition of the Presidential Committee on
Human Rights effected under this Executive Order shall receive the benefits to which they may be
entitled under existing laws, rules and regulations.

Sec. 5. The approved annual appropriations of the Commission on Human Rights shall be
automatically and regularly released.

Sec. 6. All laws, orders, issuances, rules and regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with this
Executive Order are hereby repealed or modified accordingly. law phi 1.net

Sec. 7. This Executive Order shall take effect immediately.

Done in the City of Manila, this 5th day of May, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and eighty-
seven.