The fifth group of officials of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) officially ended their seven-year term on May 5, creating a vacuum within the agency that found itself in the crosshairs of the Duterte administration on several occasions over the past six years.

The CHR en banc, originally made up of five people appointed in 2015 by former President Benigno Aquino III, leaves behind a legacy of resistance that included resisting pressure from Congress to cut its budget to P1,000, after that the agency has incurred the wrath of Mr. Duterte for criticizing his war on drugs and alleged human rights abuses.

However, only CHR President Leah Tanodra-Armamento, Commissioners Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana and Roberto Cadiz completed their terms. Chito Gascon, Armamento’s predecessor, died of COVID-19 in October last year.

For the past six years, the constitutional commission under their leadership has been a crucial check on what was perceived to be the excesses of the Duterte administration, particularly in the war on drugs that has left thousands dead in circumstances. questionable.

It was not an easy task. The government has often accused the CDH of falling prey to “communist lies” every time it points out the red flagging of human rights defenders and political dissidents.

On several occasions, the CHR has tried to ask the government for access to records of the war on drugs to allow it to carry out an independent investigation, a request which has not yet been granted.

Herculean Challenges

But “despite seemingly Herculean challenges – be it the hostile political environment, the pandemic, or threats to its budget never before encountered in the institution’s 35-year history –[the] CHR [has] eager to offer the best to its customers, especially the vulnerable sectors which deserve only the best of the [agency]said CHR spokeswoman Jacqueline de Guia.

“We, the other human rights leaders … reaffirm to the public our commitment to continue our work for a just and humane society,” she added.

Among the agency’s key achievements are a landmark report on how the red flag persists and threatens human rights defenders, the creation of an online sexual violence reporting portal, as well as leading the charge against the restoration of the death penalty in the country.

The HRC, created under the 1987 Constitution, was tasked with investigating all forms of human rights violations, involving civil and political rights. It was formed in response to the atrocities committed during martial law, which was declared by former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1972.

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