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Threat to abolish CHR shows Duterte's 'utter disregard' for human rights, Gascon says

President Rodrigo Duterte's remark calling for the abolition of the Commission on Human Rights shows his "utter disregard" on the protection of civil liberties, CHR chairman Chito Gascon said Tuesday.

"The President's statements made both at his 2nd SONA & after should remove any doubt regarding the attitude his administration will take towards respecting the human rights guarantees enshrined in the Constitution," Gascon said in a statement.

"The actions during the first year of his Presidency coupled with his words said over the same period exhibit an utter disregard for due process, equal protection, and other civil liberties. This has encouraged the deepening of impunity," he added.

In a press conference following his State of the Nation Address, Duterte threatened to abolish the CHR, saying he will not allow soldiers and policemen be investigated by the constitutional body without his approval.

Gascon, in response, said any move to abolish the CHR should be first pushed in Congress ,which created the body under the 1987 Constitution.

"Any discussion to abolish CHR or any other institution for that matter can be taken in the proposed constitutional-reform process," he said. "In other words, we shall cross the bridge when we get there. I remain hopeful human rights would still be affirmed.

Until then, he said the CHR will continue iperforming its mandate of "fact-finding/documenting of human rights violations as well as inform the public about the importance of human rights in society."

Gascon also reminded Duterte that his threat of bombing schools operated by the lumads is prohibited under international humanitarian law.

'Lack of understanding'

Meanwhile, CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline de Guia said the remarks of Duterte shows his possible lack of understanding of the CHR's duties.

"We are saddened with the pronouncement of the President and the statement regarding the abolition of the CHR may stem from a lack of understanding of the mandate of the CHR," De Guia told GMA News Online.

De Guia said the Constitution created the CHR to ensure that government officials do not abuse their powers at the expense of human rights.

"The CHR is an important democratic institution and  independent constitutional office to further the principle of checks and balances in government to ensure that as watchdog or monitor, there will be no abuse of power by government authorities," she said.  —KBK, GMA News