Con-Com votes to turn CHR a constitutional body

The Con-Com voted 16-1 in favor of turning CHR a constitutional body

The Consultative Committee voted en banc on Monday to give the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) the status of an independent constitutional body in their proposed charter, but without prosecutorial powers.


Vote tally for the CHR in the proposed charter.

Photo from Con-Com

The Con-Com voted 16-1 in favor of the proposal. Those who voted for it were former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Arthur Aguilar, Eddie Alih, Antonio Arellano, Ali Balindong, Virgilio Bautista, Roan Libarios, Jose Martin Loon, retired Associate Justice Antonio Nachura, Susan Ordinario, Randolph Parcasio, retired Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, Edmund Tayao, Rodolfo Robles, Julio Teehankee, and Laurence Wacnang. Ferdinand Bocobo voted against it. Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, Reuben Canoy, and Victor De La Serna were absent. Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel inhibited from voting because he has a relative in CHR.

The proposal to elevate CHR to a constitutional body would strengthen its investigative powers, expand its membership to include the marginalized sector, indigenous peoples and environmental advocates. This is in line with the Con-Com’s proposal to include socioeconomic and environmental rights in the Bill of Rights.

The Con-Com also proposes to expand the CHR’s mandate and jurisdiction to include non-state actors. In a statement earlier today, the Con-Com revealed that the expansion of the CHR’s mandate will correct the misconception that only state actors are culpable of committing human rights violations. Former CJ Puno said in a radio program, “Ngayon pag dating dun sa protection ng socioeconomic rights, saka environmental rights, ay yan klarong-klaro na ang nagba-violate mga nonstate actors. Halimbawa, yung environmental degradation, hindi ba ang isang nagba-violate ng environmental rights ay mga mining companies na irresponsible? Napakalaki pong trabaho nyan, at nangangailangan ng resources.”

In the same radio program, Senator Pimentel emphasized the importance of accounting for the rights of Indigenous Peoples (IPs): “Makikita mo ngayon, in the name of investments, yung ancestral land nila, nasasapawan. We need investments but very important na mabigyan ang mga IP ng adequate protection.”

The proposal to elevate the CHR to a constitutional body will enhance its fiscal autonomy. CHR Chairman Chito Gascon stressed the need for human rights institutions to have access to adequate resources. He also suggested that instead of giving CHR prosecutorial powers, there should be a special prosecutor in the National Prosecution Service dedicated to human-rights cases and specialized courts. “These are all options that are left to the collective wisdom of the consultative body,” he said.