To all the employees and officials of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), happy 30th anniversary!
For 30 years, you have played a vital role in making our democracy very vibrant and robust. It has served countless Filipinos through its programs and services, providing appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of our countrymen.
It is in this institution where I learned the value of human life and human dignity, regardless of one’s status. As CHR Chairperson, I conducted the inquiry on the Davao Death Squad linked to the spate of killings in Davao City, a chilling policy that has now spread throughout the country. And just recently, also through the efforts of the CHR, a “secret cell” was discovered where more than a dozen suspected drug offenders were arbitrarily detained under most inhuman conditions–a clear proof of the alarming situation of our jails and the excesses of our law enforcers under the Duterte regime.
Indeed, the CHR is facing its toughest challenge as our nation is plunged into a crisis–a crisis of democracy where citizens are silenced amid the prevalence of flagrant violations of our fundamental rights; where lies and rumors are fabricated to poison our minds by some forces in our State for the sake of their political and personal agendas. Now more than ever, the CHR needs to have a united stand in fighting this crisis, to continue fighting for the welfare and rights of our people, especially the marginalized who are often the victims of injustice in our society.
My prior experience in CHR also gave me a clear picture of what more needs to be done for the institution in order to effectively fulfill its mandate. This is the reason why I have filed Senate Bill No. 1230, an Act to Strengthen the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines as the National Human Rights Institution. This bill seeks to give CHR its own charter, thereby, reinforcing its powers and functions.
Let us continue to showcase CHR’s exemplary work as defenders of human rights in the country now and in the generations to come.