July 23, 2017
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS FAILS MARAWI
The Commission on Human Rights has failed to protect civilians and ensure that human rights are upheld in Marawi while Martial Law is in effect.
CHR Chairman Chito Gascon proved to be absolutely useless in deliberations at the joint session of Congress yesterday on whether or not to extend Martial Law .
After a teary-eyed Marawi local exposed human rights abuses during the session, sharing testimonies about soldiers telling civilians to literally dig their own graves, the abuse of an autistic child who was burned with hot water, and women made to strip in evacuation centers, Senator Grace Poe sought confirmation from the Commission on Human Rights on whether or not abuses were indeed happening.
Gascon failed to answer. Worse, he gave Congress the runaround.
Asked by Poe to confirm whether or not there were abuses, Gascon pathetically answered, “The Commission on Human Rights is still in the middle of receiving reports and conducting its own investigations.”
Poe was quick to note that the CHR has not been doing its job, saying, “But aren’t you pro-active enough also to receive direct complaints from different constituents from Marawi?”
Gascon gave the excuse that while the CHR has in fact been receiving reports from NGOs, they have not yet received any formal complaints. While women are possibly being abused, children possibly being abused, and even civilian men possibly being abused, the CHR under Gascon is either turning a blind eye or exercising absolutely no sense of urgency to determine whether or not abuses are in fact taking place.
The CHR, even with the urgency of the situation and knowing fully well that a joint session would tackle the issue of the extension of Martial Law on which their input would bear weight, had not validated reports on human rights abuses that it could not tell Congress anything.
Worse, Gascon is of the mindset that in spite of the chaos in Marawi, it is still the job of the victims of human rights abuses to file formal complaints.
Given that a formal complaint by the victims may be necessary to file charges against criminals, Gascon’s CHR has still failed by this time to check on the status of the reports of abuses coming from respected NGOs at the very least to give Congress a better picture of the real situation on the ground in Marawi, especially as to how it is affecting the citizens who are now under Martial Law.
Gascon gave the other excuse that it is very difficult to go to the conflict areas. Geez, who said it would be easy?! The president himself has risked his life to go; NGO volunteers are able to make it, yet the CHR fails to?!
Worse, he thinks that the very persons who may be committing human rights abuses – those given extraordinary authority by Martial Law, i.e., the AFP – should be the ones to report the abuses to them!! That is like telling an accused rapist to give him a report on his rape!
Gascon said to Congress under question from Poe: “We feel that it is important, as has been suggested here, that regular human rights reports from the Human Rights Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that can be validated by the Commission on Human Rights should be undertaken.”
This was before adding another excuse of the lack of a field office in ARMM while confirming that in fact “we have been receiving some reports that we are now validating from the victims in the evacuation areas as well as in other parts of Mindanao.” Maybe by Christmas, when the President asks for yet another extension of Martial Law, Gascon might finally have validated the reports?
There is absolutely no empathy for the people of Mindanao from this man – the ARMCHAIRman of the Commission of Human Rights. He has shown no sense of urgency at all in determining the real situation on the ground in Marawi.
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