When human rights violations occur, there is a need for an institution that can investigate and make recommendations to prevent future violations. This is where the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) comes in. The Commission enforces the Constitution and laws that ensure human rights are not violated by individuals, groups, or government entities.
In the Philippines, the CHR has been one of the most vocal defenders of human rights and has been at the forefront of several issues, including extrajudicial killings, farmers’ rights, climate change, and freedom of information. The Commission is also responsible for receiving complaints from individuals or groups who feel their rights are violated by state actors like police officers or government officials. In addition to investigating violations, the CHR also makes recommendations on how these issues can be addressed through legislative changes or other measures that prevent future violations.
This article will share some helpful information about the Commission on Human Rights and its role in the Philippines. We will also provide examples of the cases they have handled in the past and what it means for you if you need to file a complaint with them.
What is the Meaning and Purpose of CHR?
The CHR is an independent agency that was established under the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines. It was established to provide a comprehensive view of human rights in the country.
The CHR is charged with investigating and preventing human rights violations in the country. It is also tasked with looking into cases involving political and civil rights.
The CHR is an “A”-rated NHRI, which means it follows the Paris Principles’ guidelines. These principles, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1995, include pluralism, independence, transparency, broad mandate, accessibility, and operational efficiency.
The CHR aims to provide effective and responsive public service to protect and promote human rights. It is committed to following the standards and principles of the United Nations.
On February 20, 1986, Ferdinand Marcos signed a Presidential Decree establishing the Commission on Human Rights. It gave the Vice President the title of chairperson and the Prime Minister the rank of vice chairperson. The agency was to be headed by the president and its members would be assigned to coordinate with the government.
The last presidential decree that Marcos issued was not implemented following his departure from the country due to the EDSA People Power Revolution. On March 18, 1986, President Corazon Aquino signed an executive order implementing the 1986 Freedom Constitution.
The executive order provided that the PCHR would be able to subpoena and compel individuals to appear at its hearings. This function was carried out through the president’s order establishing the committee.
After the 1987 Constitution was ratified, then-President Corazon Aquino signed Executive Order 163 on May 5, which established the Commission on Human Rights. It also abolished the presidential committee on human rights.
The commission was established to investigate and promote the protection of human rights in the country. It was also tasked with ensuring that the various rights of individuals are protected.
During President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on July 24, 2017, he said that the commission would be better abolished. The CHR responded by saying that only a change in the 1987 Constitution would allow it to be abolished.
The House of Representatives voted on September 12 to provide the CHR with a budget of only a thousand pesos for the year 2018. If the law was passed, this would have effectively ended the agency’s operations. The CHR condemned the decision to provide the agency with a budget of only a thousand pesos.
The Senate did not approve the proposed budget of the CHR as of September 2017. If the Senate had rejected it, a bicameral committee composed of members from both houses would have been formed to resolve the issue.
The House of Representatives then approved the 2018 budget on September 25. It included a total of P3.8 trillion. The CHR’s budget was included in the final budget.
As you can tell, the CHR had gone through a difficult journey. But it’s important to note that the agency accomplished its goals despite its problems. The CHR has been able to serve as a watchdog against human rights violations and ensure that all Filipinos are treated equally under the law.
Functions and Responsibilities of CHR
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is a government agency that provides services to all individuals in the Philippines, including Filipinos abroad. It also serves the vulnerable sectors of society, such as the police, military, and other government agencies.
Particularly, the CHR prioritizes the following rights-holders:
- Persons Deprived of Liberty
- Indigenous Peoples
- Workers (Domestic and Migrant Workers)
- Internally Displaced Persons
- Persons Living in Poverty
- Persons with Disabilities
- Senior Citizens
- Persons with Diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression (SOGIE)
- Other marginalized groups
The CHR also works to strengthen the capacities of its staff members, including those in the justice system and the security sector. These include frontline service providers, policymakers, and actors in the justice system.
The CHR works in partnership with various government agencies and organizations. It also works with civil society groups and educational institutions.
The CHR also engages with international and local communities to promote and protect human rights.
FUNCTIONS OF THE CHR
Under Section 18, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution, the Commission on Human Rights shall have the following powers and functions:
- Investigate, on its own or on a complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights;
- Adopt its operational guidelines and rules of procedure, and cite for contempt for violations thereof by the Rules of Court;
- 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;
- Exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detention facilities;
- Establish a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance respect for the primacy of human rights;
- Recommend to Congress effective measures to promote human rights and to provide for compensation to victims of violations of human rights, or their families;
- Monitor the Philippine Government’s compliance with international treaty obligation on human rights;
- 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;
- Request the Assistance of any department, bureau, office, or agency in the performance of its functions;
- Appoint its officers and employees in accordance with law; and
- Perform such other duties and functions as may be provided by law.
Laws Enacted by the CHR
Executive Order No. 275, s. 1995 – This maintains that a committee should be established to protect children from various forms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It should also look into ways to prevent these conditions from happening in the first place.
General Order No. 1, s. 2017 – The President is authorized to use his powers and prerogatives to suppress violent acts and rebellions in the country. These include the imposition of curfews and the military’s involvement in the operations in Mindanao. It is, therefore, – important that the armed forces of the Philippines immediately deploy to prevent and suppress any rebellion in the region.
Republic Act No. 10353 – The Philippines’ R.A. 10353 is a law that aims to prevent enforced disappearances. It was passed in response to the issue. It has also been modified for students.
Republic Act No. 10366 – The Commission on Elections has the power to establish accessible polling places for disabled and senior citizens under Republic Act 10367. It also requires that all voters be registered using biometric identification.
Republic Act No. 10368 – The Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Act of 2013 seeks to provide recognition and reparations to individuals who suffered from human rights violations during the Marcos regime.
Republic Act No. 11036 – The Mental Health Act of 2018 was passed on July 5, 2018. It aims to provide a comprehensive framework for addressing the mental health of individuals.
Republic Act No. 11188 – RA 11188 states that a Zone of Peace is a place that is protected and preserved for its own purposes. It can include religious, educational, historical, or environmental elements.
Republic Act No. 11210 – The SSS’ 105-day extended maternity leave law, also known as the EMLL, provides better and increased benefits for its female members. It allows them to take advantage of the necessary time to regain their health and become more productive mothers.
Republic Act No. 11479 – The Philippines’ anti-terrorism law, which was signed by President Duterte on July 3, 2020, aims to prevent, detect, and punish terrorism in the country. It replaces the Human Security Act of 2007.
Republic Act No. 9745 – The act, which was referred to as the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, was enacted to punish and curb the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment by individuals in authority.
Republic Act No. 8371 – The Philippines’ indigenous people’s rights law, known as the IPRA, was established in 1997. It aims to recognize and promote the rights of indigenous peoples in the country.
Human Rights Issues
There have been reports of torture being carried out by members of the communist party of the Philippines. Reports also indicated that the police and other security forces were involved in the practice.
The Labor Code of the Philippines is a set of regulations that govern the various aspects of labor relations and employment in the country. It sets standards in terms of pay, holiday pay, and other benefits.
Before the Martial Law era in the Philippines, the country’s labor laws were not institutionalized. During this period, President Ferdinand Marcos established a committee to look into the various labor laws in the country.
The committee was headed by Amado Inciong, the Undersecretary of Labor. It was composed of various officials such as Ricardo Castro, the head of the Labor Relations Department, Diego Atienza, the head of the Labor Standards Department, and Rony Diaz, the head of the Employment and Training Department.
After the committee’s recommendations were submitted to the president, a presidential decree was issued that established the Labor Code of the Philippines. It also established a framework for the establishment of social justice policies and programs in the country.
Indigenous peoples’ rights
The rights of indigenous peoples were also recognized in the country through the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997. This Act committed the government to promote and recognize the rights of these communities.
The president’s decree stated that the government should protect the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains. It also noted that customary laws should be used to determine the extent and ownership of these communities’ lands.
The president’s decree also stated that the government should protect the rights of indigenous peoples to their cultural and traditions. This should be done through the formulation of policies and national laws.
The president’s decree also stated that the government should guarantee that members of the International Civil Court and the IPs enjoy the same rights and freedoms regardless of their sex.
The government should take various measures to ensure that the rights of the IPs and the ICCs are protected. These include ensuring that they are treated with respect and dignity, and that they are able to enjoy the same privileges and opportunities that other members of the population have.
The government also acknowledged the importance of addressing the concerns of the IPs and the ICCs regarding their cultural integrity. It said that it would ensure that the government’s various services are geared toward addressing the needs of the communities they serve.
Human and environmental rights defenders in the Philippines are supported by various international groups. These organizations carry out their activities through a process known as participatory democracy, which allows them to involve local actors and communities in their decisions.
Human rights defenders in the Philippines also want to raise awareness about the various social issues faced by the Lumad. According to a study conducted by the researchers, ideal participation would be achieved when the local and transnational actors are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to address these issues.
The concept of social power refers to the idea that the Lumad people are not allowed to participate in political decisions. This issue is considered a violation of their rights to self-determination and traditional practices. As of 1998, the Philippines’ indigenous peoples have not been able to fully control their own social power. Through online organizing, people can now organize their communities to address the issues that they face.
Due to their dependence on the natural resources of their ancestral lands, the Lumad people are often forced to relocate. This has led to their experiencing various social issues, such as poverty and lack of resources. Through fundraising activities by advocacy groups, they can still support their communities.
As you can tell, human rights issues in the country have been a struggle for a long time. However, since the 1990s, there has been an increase in awareness of these issues by both the government and the people. This has led to various attempts being made to address these problems, such as the passage of laws that protect certain rights. Though they have helped in some instances, there is still more work to be done for all Filipinos to be able to enjoy their human rights fully.
List of Programs and Services of CHR
Among the many programs and services that the Commission on Human Rights provides, here are some of their most important ones:
HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION SERVICES – The CHR provides legal assistance to individuals who have been victims of human rights violations. It also helps those who are in need of legal representation for cases that involve constitutional law and other related matters, as accomplished through:
- Documentation and management of complaints of human rights violations
- Monitoring of human rights conditions in detention facilities and penal rehabilitation centers
- Provisions of independent forensics services and medico-legal services in aid of investigation
HUMAN RIGHTS PROMOTION SERVICES – The CHR promotes human rights through its educational and information campaigns. It also encourages the public to be actively involved in the promotion of human rights, as accomplished through: Information dissemination and awareness campaigns Education Program for students, teachers and other stakeholders Training programs for law enforcers, government officials and other related sectors, as accomplished through:
- Human rights advocacy campaigns
- Research, documentation, and publications
HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY ADVISORY SERVICES – The CHR provides advisory services on human rights policy formulation, implementation and enforcement. It also monitors the government’s compliance with international human rights instruments, particularly as they relate to such issues as:
- The implementation of laws and policies related to human rights
- The implementation of international treaties ratified by the Philippine Government’s accountability for any violations committed against individuals or groups
- Issuance of human rights advisories, position papers, statements, and comments on existing and proposed pieces of legislation, local ordinances, and programs, and practices of government bodies
- Formulation of policy guidelines, implementing rules and regulations on new and/or special human rights laws
- Independent reports on the government’s implementation of Human Rights treaty provisions
SPECIALIZED/THEMATIC HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRAM – The CHR shall establish its own specialized/thematic human rights programs to address emerging issues in the field of human rights through the establishment of:
- Child Rights Center
- Center for Gender Equality and Women’s Human Rights
- Center for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
- Center for Crisis, Conflict, and Humanitarian Protection
COOPERATION AND PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM – The CHR shall establish its own cooperation and partnership programs to:
- Promote human rights through the establishment of networks, partnerships, and linkages with local government units, non-governmental organizations, academe and other groups concerned with human rights issues;
- Raise awareness on human rights issues through the conduct of international conferences, seminars and workshops; and
- Promote human rights through the conduct of research and documentation on human rights issues.
The Commission seeks to forge partnership and cooperative arrangements, protection and promotion of human rights.
Filing of Complaints – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is committed to maintaining a customer service and information system that is designed to provide timely and efficient responses to the complaints and concerns of its citizens.
Legal Advice and Counselling – The CHR provides free legal advice to individuals who are experiencing problems or issues. We help them prepare pleadings, establish an endorsement letter, and provide simple legal advice. If the issue or concern does not fall under the scope of the agency’s jurisdiction, we will issue an endorsement letter.
Data, Statistics, Information, Documents And Reference Materials Provision – CHR provides various information documents and data to organizations and clients. These materials are gathered from the commission’s data bank.
Issuance Of Clearance – The CHR only issues clearance if it has no record of human rights violations or if the client has a pending resolution of such violations. This process involves conducting a comprehensive data check and verification to ensure that the client’s record does not include any such violations.
Request For Technical Assistance (Training/Resource Person) – The CHR’s Education and Promotion Office provides technical assistance to educational institutions and government agencies in developing programs and training related to Human Rights. It also conducts pilot projects and tests of new teaching methods and tools.
The CHR’s trainers and other experts in the field conduct training and provide resource speakers for various programs and activities.
Request For Interviews – The CHR aims to inform the public about its mission and vision and its various initiatives and activities.
The CHR grants interviews to various media outlets on topics related to human rights issues. These interviews can be conducted through its spokesperson or designated officer.
Video: CHR ng lahat: Naglilingkod maging sino ka man
In this video primer, we see the importance of the CHR in the community. In a truly prosperous, independent, and unified community, no one should be left behind. With this, the CHR, a dependable public servant who will fight for every Filipino’s human rights, was established. The CHR is responsible for ensuring that the government does its job, honors its promises, and does everything necessary to defend Filipinos’ human rights. CHR SERVES EVERYONE REGARDLESS OF WHO YOU ARE. Always keep this in mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What would happen if the Senate rejected the CHR budget?
If the Senate had not approved the proposed budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), then a bicameral committee would have been formed to resolve the issue. On September 25 of 2017, however, the House of Representatives approved a final budget of P3.8 trillion, including a CHR provision.
2. What is the role of the Philippine government in the protection of human rights?
The Human Rights Act of the Philippines provides for the protection of all individuals in the country, regardless of their backgrounds. It also provides for the provision of legal aid services to those who need it.
3. What is human rights promotion?
Human Rights Promotion is a broad term that refers to various strategies and activities that promote the protection of human rights. These include advocacy, education, research, networking, and social mobilization.
4. What is the duty of the Philippine government in relation to safeguarding the Filipinos’ human rights?
The Philippines’ government has a legal obligation to protect the civil and political rights of its citizens. This is evidenced by Article XIII of the Constitution. The commission has a broad mandate and can be divided into three main areas which are: the promotion of human rights, the investigation of complaints and other forms of legal actions involving human rights and the resolution of disputes involving human rights.
5. Who appoints the CHR commissioner?
The President has the power to appoint the Chairman and the members of the Human Rights Commission for a term of seven years.
6. What is the purpose of human rights in the Philippines?
The Philippines’ constitution guarantees the protection of human rights. This ensures that people in the country can live with dignity and avoid abuse at the hands of authorities and other institutions.
7. What are the basic human rights in the Philippines?
There are some of the basic human rights that are recognized in the Philippines. These include:
- The Right to Life. The right to life is the most important right of all. It ensures that you are free from any form of harm. This includes physical abuse and death, as well as psychological and emotional abuse.
- The Right to Freedom from Torture. This refers to the right not to undergo any form of physical or psychological torture. The right to freedom from torture is recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international treaties.
- The Right to equal treatment. This right forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion and other factors.
- The Right to privacy. This right is the right to be left alone by the government. It means that you have a right to control who has access to your personal information and how it is used.
- The Right to asylum. This right is the right to be allowed to live in a country if you are fleeing from political persecution.
- The Right to marry. This right is the right to get married and have a family.
- The Right to freedom of thought, opinion and expression. This right is the right to express your thoughts, opinions and beliefs without government interference.
- The Right to work. This right is the right to work and earn a living.
- The Right to Education. This right is the right to be educated and have access to information.
- The Right to Social Services. This right is the right to receive social services from the government.
- The Right to vote. This right is the right to vote and participate in public affairs.
The CHR is among the most important institutions in the Philippines because it is instrumental in protecting and promoting human rights. The CHR has a pivotal role to play as a watchdog against any violations of human rights, so that every Filipino can enjoy their fundamental rights.
Filipinos, both here and overseas, must learn how to protect and defend their rights, so that they can live in a country where human rights are respected. We hope that you gained some invaluable insights on the CHR and its role in safeguarding human rights. Also, if you know someone who might benefit from this post, please share it with them. We hope that you learned something new and can use the information on this page when you talk about the CHR.
DISCLAIMER: This post is only intended to provide general information. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the CHR and its mandate, nor should it be considered legal advice. If you have any questions about your rights or how the CHR works, you may reach out using the information in the following section.
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Address: SAAC Building, UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, 1101
Telephone Number: (02) 8294-8704
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/chrgovph
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