MANILA, Philippines – The two highest leaders of the land don’t see eye to eye when it comes to the issues of abolishing the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and appointing barangay officials instead of electing them.
On Friday, July 28, Vice President Leni Robredo said she would oppose the abolition of the CHR as the institution serves as the shield of poor Filipinos from abuses especially those committed by powerful government officials.
“Kaya nagkaroon ng CHR para may sandata iyong mahihirap na mayroong kakampi sa kanila, mayroong mangangalaga ng kanilang karapatan kapag sila ay naaabuso, kapag ang kanilang karapatang pantao ay naaabuso ng mga kawani ng gobyerno,” Robredo said during a media interview at the Sabang National High School in Calabanga, Camarines Sur where she led the inauguration of a four-story building.
“Saka kung titingnan natin, bakit ba nakapalaman ito sa ating Konstitusyon? Nakapalaman ito sa ating Konstitusyon dahil sa mahabang karanasan natin ng human rights abuses, na ang nagko-commit sarili nating mga government officials, ang nagko-commit mga kawani ng gobyerno,” she said.
[And if we look at it, why was the CHR created under our Constitution? It’s because of our long history of human rights abuses that are being committed by our own government officials and employees.]
The poor will further be deprived of protection
The Vice President added that if the CHR would be abolished the more the government would deprive protection for those in society who had long been suffering from poverty.
“Kung ia-abolish iyong CHR, parang lalo nating hindi binibigyan ng proteksyon iyong mga dati nang naghihirap sa ating lipunan.”
During a press conference at the Batasang Pambansa on July 24 after delivering his State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to abolish the CHR as he continued to take up the cudgels for law enforcers amid accusations of worsening human rights violations in the country.
“And when the time comes, ‘yong CHR, ‘yong opisina dito, you are better abolished,” Duterte said.
“I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated. Human Rights Commission, you address your request through me because the Armed Forces is under me and the police is under me. Kaya pag kinuwestyon ninyo sila for investigation, dadaan muna sa akin [That’s why if you question them for investigation, they first have to pass through me],” he added.
‘Baka ang mangyari palakasan’
Asked by media of her position on appointing barangay leaders instead of electing them, Robredo on Friday said she was opposed to it and would only support proposals to postpone the barangay polls so that the Commission on Elections would have enough time to prepare for it.
Robredo said appointing barangay officials might result in patronage politics just like in the past.
“Ako, sang-ayon ako na ma-postpone iyong barangay elections para makapaghanda iyong ating Comelec. Ang hindi ako sang-ayon, iyong appointment, kasi…nakita na natin, nangyari ito in the past, baka (ang) mangyari palakasan,” she said.
“Mas mabuti sana na iyong mga nakaupo na mamumuno ng ating mga barangay ay iyong taumbayan iyong pumili sa kanila, hindi kung sinong opisyal [It would be better if it’s the people and not a government official who would choose barangay leaders],” Robredo said.
Last March, Duterte revealed that, “We are looking for a way to just appoint the barangay captains,” adding that this was necessary because so many of them were involved in drug trafficking.
“Narco-politics has entered the mainstream of Philippine politics,” the President said.
In the same month, then Department of Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno said Duterte did not only want to postpone the barangay polls in October but also replace village officials nationwide with the President’s appointees.
This month, the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) announced that the DILG would likely appoint officers-in-charge for the barangay chairmanship positions that are being deemed vacant due to the postponement of the October elections.
Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan, resident of the LCP, said the postponement of elections is made imperative by the drug problem being faced by the government.