CHR welcomes plan to grant it power to prosecute

Lawyer Alberto Sipaco Jr., head of the CHR Southeastern Mindanao office, said giving them the power to prosecute would “help expedite the solutions regarding human rights violations”.

"Yes, this power is imperative because it will be much easier for us to enforce the law against human rights violations," Sipaco told MindaNews Friday.

Two Liberal Party leaders, Sen. Franklin Drilon and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, announced here Thursday that they would push for bills on this matter in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Drilon said the Liberal Party has expressed its concern over the mounting cases of violation of human and civil rights, mainly on extra-legal killings and forced disappearances of government critics and members of militant organizations.

The CHR has no power to prosecute and was mandated only to investigate cases of violation of human rights and to issue recommendation for preliminary investigation. CHR is not allowed to carry out preliminary investigation.

"We (CHR) can only recommend for preliminary investigation to the office of the ombudsman or recommend to (the government) prosecutors. What we have is a fact-finding investigation prerogative," he said.

Sipaco said that once it would be given power to prosecute, “our task will go beyond fact-finding and will then proceed to preliminary investigation.” He explained that “fact-finding is different from preliminary investigation (in that the latter) can be done only with prosecutory rights”.

Once CHR will be vested this power, “it will allow it to dismiss, outright, or file cases of human rights violation directly to the fiscal, the office of the ombudsman, or the court of appeals”.

"This plan will help immediately redress the problems of the victims of human rights violations," he added.

According to Sipaco, the plan would not be in conflict with the anti-terror law. "This one is referring to typical cases not necessarily under the anti-terror bill," he said. These refer to cases such as political killings, abductions, torture, and other forms of human rights violations.

In 2006, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. pushed for a similar measure to grant that power to the CHR but was not successful.

"Unless the CHR is clothed with prosecutory powers, the Commission will remain ineffectual in carrying out its task of protecting and upholding the human rights of the Filipino people," Pimentel said in his Aug. 28, 2006 entry in his website. (Cherry Concon / MindaNews)