De Lima fires back at Duterte over threats to abolish CHR

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Senator Leila M. de Lima today lashed out at President Duterte for threatening to abolish the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) following its alleged interference on how government security forces deal with drug-related cases and the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

De Lima, who once chaired CHR, said she finds Duterte’s threat appalling but nonetheless unsurprised that the President can unleash his tirades against those critical of his administration.

“I no longer find it surprising given that the President demonizes human rights advocates and promotes killings as crime prevention even before he assumed the presidency,” she said.

In a press conference after his Second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 24, Duterte warned CHR to stop investigating members of the police or military without seeking the approval of his office, as he mulled on its abolishment.

The CHR, created under the 1987 Constitution, is tasked to protect citizens’ rights from abuses by the state.

Following the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao on May 23 due to the ongoing clashes between government troops and ISIS-inspired Maute group terrorists in Marawi City, CHR has kept a watchful eye on reports of threats or instances of warrantless arrest in the province, which irked the President.

CHR Chairman Chito Gascon, on his part, vowed that the agency will continue to perform its constitutional mandate despite Duterte’s warning, maintaining that any talks to abolish CHR would take constitutional amendments or Charter change.

In strengthening CHR, the neophyte Senator earlier filed Senate Bill No. 1230, which seeks to regard the CHR as the national human rights institution and strengthen its powers and functions.

“Over the years, CHR has proven its exemplary work as a cornerstone of human rights in the country. It has served countless Filipinos through its programs and services, and has addressed institutional challenges in terms of resources and extent of its mandate,” she said.

De Lima, who was recognized by Amnesty International (AI) as one of the notable Women Human Rights Defenders, vowed to continue fighting against injustices even while in detention.

“This regime can send its most vicious hatchet men against me, but I refuse to be silenced on the human rights situation in the country. Down to my last breath, I will continue opposing this bloody regime,” she said.

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