The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will exercise concurrent prosecutorial powers and functions once Senator Chiz Escudero’s bill seeking to strengthen the functional and structural organization of the agency is approved.
Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, has sponsored Committee Report No. 37, which seeks further amendment to the CHR’s current charter and equip it prosecutorial powers similar to that of the Department of Justice (DOJ) over cases involving human rights violation.
“Under its present mandate, CHR is neither a judicial nor a quasi-judicial body. Its jurisdiction is limited only to civil and political rights. We want to equip it with significant power to include economic, social and cultural rights,” Escudero pointed out.
At present, CHR is restricted by the Constitution to preventive measures only such as initiating applications in court for judicial writs and orders, conduct investigation and receive evidence of violations of human rights, among others.
The senator said the commission will be more empowered, thus rendering it more effective and authoritative if its jurisdiction includes quasi-judicial power.
“The mandate of the CHR is vital in ensuring that it enacts the state policy to secure, protect and guarantee the dignity of its citizens and to ensure the fulfillment of such citizens’ human rights. Therefore CHR could no longer be regarded as a toothless tiger,” Escudero said.
The same bill also grants CHR visitorial powers to all detention cells all over the country to monitor the state of the facilities and detainees.
In addition to the CHR’s empowerment, any arrests made by any of the law enforcement agencies should be reported to the CHR within 48 hours. At present, police and military can keep under their custody arrested persons as long as they want.#