Commission on Human Rights (Philippines)

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Commission on Human Rights
Komisyon ng Karapatang Pantao
Agency overview
FormedMay 5, 1987
HeadquartersCommonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Annual budget₱958,963,000 (2023)[1]
Agency executives

The Commission on Human Rights (Filipino: Komisyon ng Karapatang Pantao) (CHR) is an independent constitutional office created under the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, with the primary function of investigating all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights in the Philippines.[2]

The commission was first founded and led by Chairperson José W. Diokno, a prominent lawyer and the father of human rights in the country, whom the surrounding park of the headquarters now known as the Liwasang Diokno (Diokno Freedom Park) was named after. Diokno also founded the premier human rights network called the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). Furthermore, the hall inside the compound is called Bulwagang Ka Pepe or the Ka Pepe Hall, which features a sculpted bust and large mural of the late senator.

The CHR is composed of a chairperson and four members. Commissioners hold a term of office of seven years without reappointment. The Philippine Constitution requires that a majority of the commission's members must be lawyers. As a National Human Rights Institution, the Commission enjoys Status A or top accreditation by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions based on the 1993 Paris Principles.[3]


Chair José W. Diokno at the Bulwagang Ka Pepe

Prior creation[edit]

On February 20, 1986, then President Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 2036 creating the Commission on Human Rights with the Vice President being the chairperson and Prime Minister as Vice Chairperson and shall be attached to the Office of the President for general direction and coordination.[4] This decree, which was Marcos' last issued presidential decree was not implemented as he fled to the United States days after and replaced by Corazon Aquino through the EDSA People Power Revolution. Nearly a month later, on March 18, 1986, then President Aquino by virtue of the 1986 Freedom Constitution, signed Executive Order No. 8 creating the Presidential Committee on Human Rights.[5] One function introduced in this executive order is the authority by the PCHR to issue subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum directing any person to attend and testify at any hearing conducted by the PCHR.


After the ratification of the 1987 Philippine Constitution on February 2, 1987, which provides for the establishment of a Commission on Human Rights, then President Aquino, signed Executive Order No. 163 on May 5, 1987, creating the Commission on Human Rights and abolished the Presidential Committee on Human Rights.[6] The commission was created as an independent office mandated to investigate complaints of human rights violations, promote the protection of, respect for and the enhancements of the people's human rights including civil and political rights.[citation needed]

Duterte administration[edit]

On July 24, 2017, during his State of the Nation Address (SONA), Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said that the commission was "better abolished."[7] The CHR responded in a statement that only a change to the 1987 Constitution could possibly abolish it.[8]

On the evening of September 12, 2017, the House of Representatives of the Philippines voted 119–32 to give the CHR a budget of only 1,000 for the entire year of 2018, which, if made law, would have effectively abolished the commission.[9] The commission had reportedly asked Congress for a budget of ₱623,380,000, and it condemned the vote.[10] As of 13 September 2017, the budget had not been finalized and was still subject to further amendment before approval by the Senate of the Philippines and by the President.[11] If the Senate had rejected the proposed CHR budget, such action would have triggered a bicameral committee made of members of both houses to resolve the dispute.[12] On September 25, the House approved by a vote of 223–9 a P3.8-trillion final budget for 2018, which included 508.5 million for the CHR.[13]

Mandates and functions[edit]

Bulwagang Ka Pepe and the seven foot statue of Diokno, apart from a similar bronze sculpture at Liwasang Diokno

The Commission derives its mandates from the Constitution, relevant domestic laws, and the eight core International Human Rights Instruments to which the Philippines is a State Party, as well as other United Nations Human Rights Conventions newly enforced.

Under Section 18, Article XIII of the Philippine Constitution, the government has a duty to protect civil and political rights of citizens in the Philippines. Based on the Philippine Constitution, the commission has a broad mandate, which can be categorized into three major functional areas:

  • Human Rights Protection – Investigation and case management of complaints of violations, including all the powers and services in aid of investigation, of civil and political rights as well as economic, social, and cultural rights. Such powers and services include: citing for contempt for violations of its rules of procedure; legal aid and counseling; visitorial powers over jails and detention facilities; application of forensic techniques in aid of investigation; witness protection; and, financial assistance to victims[14]
  • Human Rights Promotion, which includes the wide range of strategies for policy, advocacy, promotion, social mobilization, education, training, public information, communication, research, networking and linkages[14]
  • Human Rights Policy Advisory derived from monitoring government's compliance with the treaty obligations that the Philippines has acceded to: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention Against Torture and Other Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention Against Racial Discrimination (CERD), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families (CMW); Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This also includes the entire aspect of monitoring and evaluating the performance of the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary to translate international human rights standards into national policies, laws, and practice.[14]

The Supreme Court of the Philippines, in Cariño v. Commission on Human Rights, 204 SCRA 483 (1991), declared that the Commission did not possess the power of adjudication, and emphasized that its functions were primarily investigatory.[15]

The Commission on Human Rights have the following powers and functions:

  1. Investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights
  2. Adopt its operational guidelines and rules of procedure, and cite for contempt for violations thereof in accordance with the Rules of Court
  3. Provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons within the Philippines, as well as Filipinos residing abroad, and provide for preventive measures and legal aid services to the under-privileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection
  4. Exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detention facilities
  5. Establish a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance respect for the primacy of human rights
  6. Recommend to Congress effective measures to promote human rights and to provide for compensation to victims of violations of human rights, or their families;
  7. Monitor the Philippine Government's compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights
  8. Grant immunity from prosecution to any person whose testimony or whose possession of documents or other evidence is necessary or convenient to determine the truth in any investigation conducted by it or under its authority;
  9. Request the assistance of any department, bureau, office, or agency in the performance of its functions
  10. Appoint its officers and employees in accordance with law
  11. Perform such other duties and functions as may be provided by law[16]


The chairperson (boldfaced below) and commissioners of the commission have fixed seven-year terms that start on May 5.

Qualifications for CHR chairperson are as follows:[17]

  1. A natural-born citizen of the Philippines;
  2. At least thirty-five years of age; and
  3. Has not been a candidate for any elective position preceding their appointment.
Commission Member Position From To Appointed by
1st Mary Concepcion Bautista[a] Chairperson May 5, 1987 September 22, 1992[18] Corazon Aquino
Abelardo L. Aportadera Jr. Commissioner June 30, 1992
Samuel M. Soriano May 5, 1994
Hesiquio R. Mallillin
Narciso C. Monteiro
Sedfrey Ordoñez Chairperson 1992 Fidel V. Ramos
2nd Aurora P. Navarette-Reciña 1994 May 5, 2001
Jorge R. Coquia Commissioner
Vicente P. Sibulo
Mercedes V. Contreras
Nasser A. Marohomsalic
3rd Purificacion Quisumbing Chairperson 2002 May 5, 2008 Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Eligio P. Mallari Commissioner
Dominador N. Calamba II
Wilhem D. Soriano
Malik G. Marandang
Quintin B. Cueto III
4th Leila de Lima[b] Chairperson May 19, 2008[19] June 30, 2010
Cecilia Rachel V. Quisumbing[c] Commissioner August 28, 2014
Victoria V. Cardona June 18, 2008[21] May 5, 2015[22]
Norberto Dela Cruz Late 2008
Jose Manuel S. Mamauag April 22, 2009[23]
Etta Rosales Chairperson September 1, 2010[22] Benigno Aquino III
5th Chito Gascon[a] June 18, 2015[24] October 9, 2021[25]
Leah Tanodra-Armamento Commissioner February 14, 2022[26]
Karen Lucia Dumpit May 5, 2022[24]
Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana
Roberto Eugenio Cadiz July 4, 2015[27]
Leah Tanodra-Armamento Chairperson February 14, 2022[26] Rodrigo Duterte
6th Richard Paat Palpal-latoc September 15, 2022[28] Term scheduled to end May 5, 2029 Bongbong Marcos
Beda Angeles Epres Commissioner September 27, 2022[29]
Faydah Maniri Dumarpa December 28, 2022[30]
Monina Arevalo Zenarosa March 23, 2023[31]
  1. ^ a b Died in office
  2. ^ Left office after appointment as Secretary of Justice.
  3. ^ Dismissed from office by the Ombudsman[20]


Liwasang Diokno (freedom park)

Tenure of Chairperson and Commissioners[edit]

In a press briefing on July 27, 2017, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella claimed that the CHR Chairperson and its commissioners "serve at the pleasure of the president" and that they may be replaced at the President's pleasure.[32] This claim was based on the Executive Order No. 163-A (issued during the presidency of Corazon Aquino in 1987) that amended the Section 2, Sub-Paragraph (c of Executive Order No.163, stating that "The Chairperson and Members of the Commission on Human Rights shall be appointed by the President. Their tenure in office shall be at the pleasure of the President."[33]

However, the said executive order was questioned in the Supreme Court in the case: Bautista v. Salonga, G.R. No. 86439 on April 13, 1989; leading to the declaration of the said executive order as unconstitutional. Taking a quote from the said Supreme Court ruling, "Indeed, the Court finds it extremely difficult to conceptualize how an office conceived and created by the Constitution to be independent as the Commission on Human Rights-and vested with the delicate and vital functions of investigating violations of human rights, pinpointing responsibility and recommending sanctions as well as remedial measures therefor, can truly function with independence and effectiveness, when the tenure in office of its Chairperson and Members is made dependent on the pleasure of the President. Executive Order No. 163-A, being antithetical to the constitutional mandate of independence for the Commission on Human Rights has to be declared unconstitutional."[34]

CHR as a Constitutional Office[edit]

Under the Article IX of the 1987 Constitution, three constitutional commissions were established namely: the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and the Commission on Audit (COA). The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), on the other hand, was created under the Article XIII, Section 17 of the 1987 constitution and the Administrative Code of 1987.[35][36]

In a Resolution of the Supreme Court contained in G.R. No. 155336, it ruled that the CHR is a .."From the 1987 Constitution and the Administrative Code, it is abundantly clear that the CHR is not among the class of Constitutional Commissions. .."[37]

External links[edit]

  • "Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines – Official Website". Retrieved March 23, 2008.
  • Media related to Commission on Human Rights (Philippines) at Wikimedia Commons

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Commission on Human Rights Budget" (PDF). Department of Budget and Management. December 28, 2022. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 4, 2023. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  2. ^ Section 18, Article XIII, Constitution of the Philippines
  3. ^ "Chart of the Status of National Institutions" (PDF). Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  4. ^ "Presidential Decree No. 2036, s. 1986". Official Gazette of the Philippines. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  5. ^ "Executive Order No. 8, s. 1986". Official Gazette of the Philippines. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  6. ^ "Executive Order No. 163, s. 1987". The Official Gazette. Archived from the original on February 22, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  7. ^ Gavilan, Jodesz (July 24, 2017). "'My men' can snub your probe, Duterte tells CHR, Ombudsman". Rappler. Retrieved September 14, 2017. "Iyong CHR, iyong opisina dito, you are better abolished, I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated," he said. "Remember this, human rights commission, you address your requests through me because the armed forces is under me and the police are under me, kaya kapag kinwestiyon mo sila for investigation, dumaan muna sa akin (If you question them for investigation, you better go through me)."
  8. ^ Mateo, Janvic (July 26, 2017). "'Rody can't abolish CHR without amending Constitution'". The Philippine Star. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  9. ^ Viray, Patricia Lourdes (September 13, 2017). "Who moved to give the CHR a budget of P1,000?". Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  10. ^ Arguillas, Carolyn O. (September 13, 2017). "Nene Pimentel on 1,000 peso budget for CHR: Congress can't abolish CHR". Mindanao News and Information Center Service Cooperative (Mindanews). Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  11. ^ Cruz, RG (September 13, 2017). "How CHR practically lost its budget". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  12. ^ Jamaine, Punzalan (September 13, 2017). "Hope remains for P678-M CHR budget". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  13. ^ "House OKs budget; CHR gets P500 M". The Philippine Star. September 26, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain: "Strategic Action Plan 2015–2016" (PDF). Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 14, 2016. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  15. ^ Cariño v. Commission on Human Rights, G.R. No. 96681, December 2, 1991, 204 SCRA 483, 492
  16. ^ "Commission on Human Rights". Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  17. ^ "Constitutional Commissions". The Official Gazette. Archived from the original on September 15, 2017. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
  18. ^ "Human Rights Commissioner Mary Concepcion Bautista Dies". Associated Press. September 22, 1992. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  19. ^ "New human rights chair assumes office amid criticisms". ABS-CBN News. May 19, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  20. ^ "SC upholds 2014 dismissal of CHR commissioner". Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  21. ^ "Arroyo appoints more 2007 poll losers to gov't posts". GMA News Online. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  22. ^ a b (May 26, 2015). "Etta Rosales quietly leaves Commission on Human Rights". Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  23. ^ "Ateneo de Zamboanga University | ADZU BOT Member Atty Jose Manuel S Mamauag named CHR (Commission on Human Rights) Commissioner". Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  24. ^ a b Star, By Janvic Mateo, The Philippine (June 18, 2015). "Gascon is new CHR chairman". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved November 3, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ "CHR chair Chito Gascon dies of COVID-19". cnn. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  26. ^ a b "New CHR chair named in crucial tail end of Duterte gov't". Rappler. February 16, 2022. Retrieved February 18, 2022.
  27. ^ "Aquino names GSIS trustee, CHR commissioner". Rappler. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  28. ^ Bolledo, Jairo (September 27, 2022). "Marcos names ex-Malacañang deputy executive secretary as new CHR chair". Rappler. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  29. ^ Bolledo, Jairo (September 27, 2022). "After 2 months, Marcos finally names 1 new CHR commissioner". Rappler. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  30. ^ "Marcos names new CHR commissioner, still missing 2 for complete leadership". Rappler. Retrieved January 8, 2023.
  31. ^ "Retired CA associate justice named new CHR commissioner". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved March 23, 2023.
  32. ^ "Palace clarifies: Duterte threat to abolish CHR made 'out of frustration'". July 27, 2017. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  33. ^ "Executive Order No. 163-A" (PDF). The Official Gazette. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 14, 2017. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  34. ^ "G.R. No. 86439 April 13, 1989". Supreme Court of the Philippines. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  35. ^ "1987 Philippine Constitution". Republic of the Philippines. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  36. ^ "Executive Order No.. 292". Republic of the Philippines. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  37. ^ "COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION (CHREA) Represented by its President, MARCIAL A. SANCHEZ, JR., Petitioner, – versus – COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Respondent". Archived from the original on September 16, 2017. Retrieved September 18, 2017.