MANILA – A lawmaker has filed a bill adding more power to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by expanding its structural, organizational and functional independence.
In filing Senate Bill No. 2440, Sen. Robinhood Padilla said the measure also guarantees full fiscal autonomy to the CHR, "to ensure prompt, immediate, and unrestricted discharge of its functions."
"Regarded as a 'toothless tiger,' the Commission has endured its limitations in rightfully carrying out its mandate within its jurisdiction. Hence, it is imperative to further strengthen its mandates, powers, and functions and clearly establish its cardinal role in cultivating a culture of human rights culture in the country," the bill read.
Under the bill, the CHR will have full authority to act on a complaint or motu proprio, in all cases of human rights violations; and vests it with the power to issue injunctive reliefs and legal measures. Its independence shall be respected and upheld, even as appropriations for it shall not be reduced and shall be automatically and regularly released.
"A just and democratic country cannot be attained without a truly independent national human rights institution. Today, more than ever, we need a more active CHR, one that is not strapped to the task of investigation or cannot recognize violations of human rights other than those involving civil and political rights. We need a CHR that can address the challenge of protecting and promoting the human rights of all, especially the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized sectors of society," Padilla said in a statement.
He noted that the CHR will be regarded as a national human rights institution, in accordance with the Principles Relating to the Status of National Institutions (Paris Principles) and other UN resolutions and instruments.
Padilla's bill allows the CHR to provide safety to witnesses and human rights defenders under threat, and to implement and manage a witness protection service.
The CHR shall develop and implement a human rights information campaign program for the public; and establish a Human Rights Institute (HRI) for the promotion and education of human rights and related fields and shall serve as a training institute for investigators, prosecutors, justices, judges, lawyers and other human rights workers.
The CHR is mandated to render a legal assistance program for underprivileged victims of human rights violations; and prepare and make public an annual report on the findings of its monitoring activities.
The measure also moves for the protection and promotion of human rights of Filipinos abroad, in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Migrant Workers, or deputized Philippine embassy or consulate officers. (With a report from Leonel Abasola/PNA)