Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon, in a discussion on website Reddit, said that Filipinos need to create a "human rights culture." Photo from Commission on Human Rights Facebook page 

Human rights should be a concern for all Filipinos — Gascon
(philstar.com) - October 2, 2017 - 3:15am

MANILA, Philippines — Every Filipino should value human rights and encourage others to understand and uphold them.

Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon stressed this point in an “Ask Me Anything” thread on the website Reddit, saying Filipinos need to create a “human rights culture.”

He said: “Human rights needs to be a concern, not just of agencies such as CHR. It must be ingrained in the Filipino psyche. My vision coming out of this is that every Filipino values human rights and will stand up for their rights and the rights of others all the time.”

Gascon said the commission is experiencing a “difficult time.”

During the plenary deliberations, the House of Representatives voted to give CHR a measly P1,000 budget for 2018 for allegedly not doing its job properly.

But the House leadership eventually decided to restore the budget of CHR by giving it P508.7 million. However, the 2018 budget is still lower than the proposed P600 million funding.

“CHR has never in its 30-year history experienced this unprecedented threat to human rights. Nonetheless, we should remain hopeful that the idea of human rights will ultimately prevail. And all we need do is to continue to stand by human rights values and encourage other people to understand its importance,” Gascon said.

CHR’s mandate

Asked whether the CHR only mandated to look at human rights violations by state forces, Gascon emphasized that the 1987 Constitution mandates the protection of human rights of all citizens.

“No, it goes this way: the Constitution mandates protection for human rights of all people, but it should be clear that it is the State that has an obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill those human rights. So, the mandate of the CHR is to monitor the State's compliance with this obligation, and it does so by looking into the actions or inactions of State bodies,” he explained.

Gascon added: “When it is the State itself that violates human rights, the CHR directly calls out those violations committed by the State. When non-State actors violate human rights, it is principal duty of the State to respond to that (i.e. law enforcement, protection mechanisms, prosecution.) And so, when the State fails in performing this duty, we call that out too.”

According to the 1987 Constitution, CHR shall “investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights.”

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly threatened to abolish the CHR, which has been critical of his sexist jokes and the killings associated with his bloody war on drugs.

READWhat Duterte gets wrong about the CHR

Aquino’s major lapses

Gascon, a former Liberal Party director-general, said a major lapse of the administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III that led to the victory of President Rodrigo Duterte was its failure to connect with the grassroots.

“It was doing good things on a macro level but was unable to both communicate and connect that to the situation of ordinary people on the ground,” Gascon said.

Duterte won the 2016 presidential election over Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas, a former senator and Aquino Cabinet official.

Gascon also said Aquino’s administration had “inability to acknowledge fault with regards to key events that affected public psyche.”

He cited the Mamamasapano incident, where 44 Special Action Force troopers were killed in the aftermath of an operation aimed to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman. Around 60 Filipinos died in the clash although the public focuses more on the 44 police officers who were killed.

Last month, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the filing of criminal charges against Aquino after finding that the former chief executive should be held liable for allowing suspended Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima to play a “major role” in Oplan Exodus, the operation against Marwan.

Gascon also mentioned the super typhoon Yolanda tragedy in 2013.

Aquino’s administration was heavily criticized for its slow response to the calamity. 

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