Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bill allows CHR to suspend cabinet members, LGU execs that violate human rights

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights shall be authorized to suspend a member of the Cabinet, a Governor, Mayor or any official of the local government unit (LGU) if found guilty of violating human rights under a bill being considered by a House body.

Rep. Roman Romulo (Lone District, Pasig City), however, expressed apprehension over the said provision of House Bill 1420, which is now the subject of deliberation by the House Committee on Human Rights chaired by Rep. Lorenzo TaƱada III (4th District, Quezon).

Section 23 of the bill authored by Akbayan Rep. Ana Theresia Hontiveros states that the CHR may preventively suspend any elective or appointive public officer or employee, including members of the Cabinet, local government, government-owned-or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries.

Exempted from the coverage of this authority are the President, the Vice President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, the Chief Justice, the Members of Congress, the judiciary and other impeachable officials.

Roman said the specific provision of the proposed bill, also known as the Commission on Human Rights Act of 2007 should be clarified and those stakeholders going to be affected should be consulted.

Romulo told the recent public hearing of the human rights panel that with the bill, the CHR will not only be a "superbody" but will have the authority to suspend for three months any Cabinet member, local executive or even officials of government controlled corporations whom they think has violated human rights.

"The sole guideline here is if the evidence of guilt is strong against those officials," Romulo said.

CHR Chairperson Leila De Lima explained to the committee that the adoption of a new charter for the CHR is aimed at protecting and strengthening its independence and operational effectiveness.

"The status of the CHR as an independent and constitutionally created institution must be protected, and its power to delineate its own organizational structure and to have fiscal autonomy is one of the key element of this proposed charter," De Lima said.

De Lima added that the measure has now specifically laid down other powers and functions of the Commission including the witness protection program, financial assistance program, legal assistance program, protection of Filipinos abroad, proposals for the creation of ad hoc groups for certain exceptional cases and the issuance of clearances. (Fidel Gumawid)

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