CHARTER OF COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS GETS CONGRESS NOD

Office of Rep. Lorenzo R. Tañada III
Chairperson: Committee on Human Rights
Northwing 409, House of Representatives, Quezon City
telefax: 9316478 or 9315001 loc. 7368 email:erin_tanada@yahoo.com
News Release- October 7, 2009 References: Erin Tanada-09193688555 Media officer: Laurice Ramos- 09228433311

CHARTER OF COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS GETS CONGRESS NOD
Charter change took place yesterday in the House of Representatives. But this time, no protests were made, nor were there fiery speeches and no grandstanding.
On October 7, 2009, the House of Representatives passed the charter of the Commission on Human Rights on second reading, HB 6822 “An Act Strengthening the Commission on Human Rights and for other purposes.”
Rep. Lorenzo ‘Erin’ Tañada III, Chair of the Committee on Human Rights and sponsor of the bill said that “Recent events revealed our country’s worsening human rights situation: from arbitrary and unlawful arrests to enforced disappearances and from torture to extra judicial killings, from harassments of media outfits to outright killing of journalists. All these lead and point to the CHR as one institution that needs to be strengthened.”
He said that the bill will give the CHR additional powers including the power to prosecute human rights violators in case of inaction by appropriate agencies.
The bill also provides that the investigation of human rights violations shall not be subject to any statute of limitations or prescriptive period. It also expands the power of the Commission to investigate, giving them unhampered and unrestricted visitorial rights over all detention facilities of the government including those under the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
According to Tañada, another feature of the bill is its identification of the CHR as the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) of the country. He said, “this is significant because International bodies, chief of them, the United Nations, have given importance to the designation of a National Human Rights Institution in every country”. The CHR charter now embodies the concepts and guidelines of the “Paris Principles” among which are independence and pluralism.
The “Paris Principles” are the guidelines and recommendations passed by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1993 for National Human Rights Institutions all over the world.
The independence of the CHR is emphasized in Section 13 of the Bill which provides “The Commission on Human Rights is an independent constitutional office. It shall not be subject to instruction or order from the President, Congress or the Judiciary, except in cases provided in the Constitution.”
Other features of the Charter are the strengthening of the fiscal autonomy of the CHR, a separate witness protection program and the structural redefinition of the CHR’s organization.
Rep. Tañada however emphasized that “the bill does not guarantee that it’s enactment into law will stop human rights violations.”
“But the approval of the bill is a testament of Congress’ efforts and will to promote and protect the rights of the people, and address human rights violations in the country. Let’s hope this will help put a stop to the perceived culture of impunity that has prevailed in our country,” he ended.

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