Press Release
August 10, 2017

Sen. Leila M. de Lima's statement on Speaker Alvarez's attack against Chair Gascon and the CHR
Dispatch from Crame No. 133

8 / 10 / 17

Speaker Alvarez's ignorance on the constitutional mandate and functions of the CHR is immediately revealed in his call for the impeachment of CHR Chairman Chito Gascon.

The CHR Chairman and Commissioners are not impeachable officials. Unlike the COA, COMELEC, and CSC, the CHR is not a constitutional commission whose members can only be removed by impeachment. The CHR is a constitutional body, but not a constitutional commission. The Constitution has not included members of the CHR in its enumeration of who are impeachable officials.

Being independent of the Executive Branch as members of an independent constitutional body, the members of the CHR can only be disciplined, suspended, or removed from office by the Ombudsman for cause.

Of course, this is not the limit of Alvarez's shockingly deficient comprehension of whatever the law is, especially on the provisions of the Constitution creating the CHR.

The Constitution is the fundamental law of the land. It is the same law which created Congress, and yes, even the office of the Speaker of the House. This 1987 Constitution, however, is peculiar among all our past Constitutions. Its distinguishing characteristic is its anti-dictatorship essence, drafted as it was from the experience of martial law and the ouster of a dictator through a people power revolution.

Because of this, the Constitution put primacy on human rights. In order to assure that human rights are a priority in national policies, and are actually protected on the ground from another tyrant like Duterte, the Constitution created the CHR as an independent constitutional body akin to the Ombudsman as the check on the Executive Branch and its excesses and abuses of power that tend to violate human rights and infringe on our civil liberties.

That is the very mandate of the CHR. It is not to protect Speaker Alvarez, or the President, or the Secretary of Justice, or the Solicitor General, or PNP officers in the abuse of their power, the impunity in their disregard for the rule of law, their hubris in the exercise of the power of their offices, or their open endorsement of extra-judicial killings. The mandate of the CHR is to make sure that public officers like Alvarez, Duterte, Aguirre, Calida and other state authorities and agents, do not abuse their powers to violate the people's human rights.

Let us be clear about it. The money to fund the CHR does not come from the State, as Alvarez thinks. The annual appropriations intended for the CHR come from the people, to protect themselves from a government bent on violating their human rights.

Alvarez may be allowed to wallow in power, drunk as he is with it like his master, so long as the wind continues to blow his way. He can even call himself and his master the State, in the fashion of the French expression of infamy "L' etat c' est moi", in denying the CHR funding that actually comes from the people, and not from incompetent officials like him.

But make no mistake about it. All power is fleeting. And when the time of reckoning comes, and it so happens that Alvarez's rights are violated, his liberties taken away, and his humanity -- or whatever is left of it -- is degraded by the new powers-that-be, God forbid that he runs to the CHR and Chair Gascon for help like a yelping dog.

To Speaker Alvarez: when you are all but stripped of your powers, and all your politician friends and sycophant followers have abandoned you, and your human rights start to be violated -- just like those people from the poor neighborhoods herded out of their houses and shot on the head without due process, without justice, without mercy -- and you run to Chair Gascon and the CHR for help, make no mistake about it -- they will be there to help you. Because Chair Gascon and the CHR know more than anyone in this country that people like you also have human rights.

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