CHR marks 37th founding anniversary with innovative efforts and strengthened collaborations; seeks to amplify the reach of its mandate

CHR marks 37th founding anniversary with innovative efforts and strengthened collaborations; seeks to amplify the reach of its mandate

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the country’s national human rights institution, commenced its 37th year of dedicated public service on May 3, 2024, under the banner of “CHR @ 37: Komisyon para sa Bayan, handang maglingkod maging sino ka man.” The theme underscores the CHR’s commitment to serve all individuals by adapting, innovating, and transcending boundaries amidst the dynamic landscape of our digital era.  CHR is created as an independent office on 5 May 1987 under the 1987 Philippine Constitution and established by virtue of Executive Order No. 163.

In his opening remarks during the kick-off event, CHR Chairperson Richard P. Palpal-latoc emphasized the importance of keeping up with the changing times as he announced the digitalization of the CHR this year.

“We will be launching on 13 May 2024 the CHR MISMO, the CHR online complaint portal that will enable us to reach our clients, especially the most vulnerable ones, real time, anywhere in the country, including remote areas. This is our response to the fast-evolving digital world where emerging issues on human rights continually surface,” Chairperson Palpal-latoc said.

Reaching grassroots communities, enhancing media safety, and strengthening government collaborations

This year’s anniversary parallels with the second-year celebration of the 6th Commission en banc (CEB). Under the leadership of the 6th Commission, CHR has made key progress in its various flagship programs under its four key mandates, namely Protection, Policy, Promotion, and Prevention.

Among the flagship program of Chairperson Palpal-latoc is the “Lakbay Karapatan Tungo sa Kamalayan or Lakaran” to widen the Commission’s Promotion mandate through human rights education caravan in grassroots communities. Since its inception last year, the Lakaran has already visited 9 provinces. Through this program, CHR was able to establish over a hundred Barangay Human Rights Action Center in partnership with local government units across all regions as well as around fifty-eight (58) Center for Human Rights Education in partnership with various educational institutions across the country.

The Commission also launched the Alisto! Alert Mechanism. Alisto! is CHR’s initiative to notify cases of alleged human rights violations by media workers as part of this year’s National Press Week celebration. This is to recognize the critical role that media workers play in keeping the Philippine democracy grounded in truth and justice, as well as ensuring the free flow of evidence-based information. In order to hear first-hand the issues and challenges that beset journalists while also updating them on key human rights issues and developments, the Commission held four media sessions last year, culminating in the 2023 National Media Forum.

To respond to the attacks and violations against the media, CHR has strengthened its efforts on media safety through the Expanded Media Task Force on the Safety of Journalists. Taking off from the original Task Force on Media-Related Extra-Judicial Killings, the Commission expanded the structure in recognition of the entire range of danger faced by the media. The shift of the name aligns with the areas indicated in the Philippine Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists (PPASJ) towards a holistic approach to media welfare.

Enhanced collaborations with various government agencies was also concretized by CHR by entering into memorandum of agreement (MOA) with them. To protect the rights of Filipino workers, CHR inked a MOA and Data Sharing Agreement with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). This collaboration is also in response to the provisions of Executive Order No. 23 (EO 23), or the Interagency Committee for the Protection of the Freedom of Association and the Right to Organise of Workers, to ensure effective response to labor-related concerns and expedite processes.

To take a more active role in assisting victims of human rights violations and abuses and to ensure that they are provided with an enforceable right to compensation, CHR also signed a MOA with the with the Department of Justice – Board of Claims (DOJ-BOC) for the Victims. CHR and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) also signed a MOA to ensure the humane and dignified treatment of individuals in detention.

Strengthening the CHR

Since its foundation, CHR has been at the forefront of protecting and promoting the fundamental rights and freedoms of all across the country. As such, the Commission highlights the importance of passing the CHR Charter Bill to broaden its mandate and reach. Previously regarded as a ‘toothless tiger,’ the passage of this bill will give teeth to the Commission through the full realization of its independence and the clear establishment of its role as a watchdog, monitor, advocate, and educator of the government.

In recognition of the support that the Commission has received in its 37 meaningful years, Chairperson Palpal-latoc expressed his heartfelt gratitude to all the personnel, partners, and supporters from different sectors – the government, civil society organisations, private sectors, and international partners.  He also emphasized that CHR takes to heart its mantra in strengthening further the institution.

“CHR has prevailed over challenges in the past and will consistently strive to improve and adapt to advance the rights of all individuals across all sectors and spectrum. Pursuant to our mantra, “CHR ng Lahat”, our pledge is to provide excellent and compassionate public service always: Narito ang CHR na handang maglingkod – saan man, kailanman, maging sino ka man,” he stressed.