Philippines: Guarantee the independence of the Human Rights Commission

(Bangkok) – President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines should ensure a transparent and inclusive process to select qualified and independent human rights experts as commissioners of the National Human Rights Commission (HRC) , Human Rights Watch said today. Marcos, which will be inaugurated as new philippine president on June 30, 2022, is expected to announce its nominations in the coming days.

The CHR is empowered under the 1987 Philippine Constitution to investigate human rights violations and promote respect for human rights in the country. Marcos ran on a campaign marked by disinformation on his family’s role in human rights violations during the dictatorship of his father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and the appointment of the commissioners will therefore be an important first test for his administration’s commitment to human rights. the man.

“President-elect Marcos should appoint commissioners with proven human rights credentials,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Given the grave human rights situation in the Philippines, these new commissioners should be independent and firmly committed to fearlessly and impartially defending the commission’s mandate and duties.”

The mandate of the five-member commission, the fifth group of curators since its inception in 1987, ended in May. The Constitution of the Philippines prevents incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte from appointing people to executive positions in the two months before the presidential election, which took place on May 9. Commissioners are appointed for a term of seven years and cannot be reappointed.

Marcos should convene an independent search committee that will draw up a shortlist of commissioner candidates, Human Rights Watch said. This committee should identify people with strong human rights backgrounds and credentials. Participation of the Filipino human rights community and civil society should be encouraged so that they can provide reputable candidates who represent vulnerable sectors, such as people with disabilities, the elderly, children and LGBT people. Convening such a search committee will help ensure the transparency of the process, Human Rights Watch said.

Although previous administrations have formed their own search committees for commission appointees, the process has not been transparent, a former commissioner told Human Rights Watch. Transparency “is something we as an institution and civil society have been asking for, preferably a panel that can look at the Paris Principles to vet candidates,” the former commissioner said. The Paris Principlescreated in 1993, sets the criteria for maintaining the independence of national human rights institutions.

The widespread extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances during the martial law period from 1972 to 1986 gave impetus to the creation of the CDH after the ousting of Marcos Sr. during the uprising of the “Power of the people” in 1986. Few cases have fully considered, with many victims and their families still waiting for justice and compensation.

Marcos Jr. will also inherit the dire human rights record under Duterte, whose brutal ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in the extrajudicial executions of thousands since 2016. are being prosecuted after the May 9 elections, although the number of cases has dropped significantly. The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into these murders to the extent possible. crimes against humanity.

“Marcos is in a strong position to give the Human Rights Commission a positive direction for the next seven years by selecting independent and credible human rights advocates as commissioners,” Robertson said. “By building rather than destroying the commission, Marcos would help dispel people’s fears about human rights under his administration.”

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