The recent proposal to drastically cut public funds allocated to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has put the spotlight on other government agencies that are of dubious value to the Filipino people. It has long been recognised that Filipinos suffer from a government that is big, fat, complex, and slow and could greatly benefit from one that is lean, nimble, and simple. A bloated government is fertile environment for corruption. Reduce complexity and there will be less opportunities for bureaucrats to intervene (with open palms and open drawers underneath desks) in processes and transactions.
The CHR, for now, sticks out as a textbook case of a solution implemented to cure a mere symptom rather than a root cause. Abuse of “human rights” is often made out to be a root cause of the Philippines’ national problems. But, really, it is a mere symptom of a more systemic problem — an inefficient criminal justice system. When the wheels of justice turn slowly, people tend to take shortcuts. Police officers would often rather kill crooks than put them through the system. Private citizens would rather hire assassins than call the police. Marginalised communities would rather seek protection from bandits than file criminal charges against their oppressors.
The CHR was created not to address those systemic problems but to implement mere workarounds — an alternative path to an existing procedure. Indeed, the CHR is essentially a tootheless organisation and still ultimately relies on the criminal justice system to get things done and resolved. It is an additional step to the process and does not, in any way, add to the speed with which justice is delivered. Worse, by its very nature, it throws a blanket presumption of guilt upon state forces and paints them as singular sources of “human rights abuse”. Indeed, its standard response to the avalanche of criticism it now cops from a cynical public, “If a civilian commits a crime, call the cops but if the cops commit a crime, call us”, illustrates the whole problem with the CHR. The CHR, in principle, defines “human rights abuse” as necessarily perpetrated only by the police and military.
“Human rights” violated by civilians? That’s a police matter, according to the CHR.
If we go by the non-political definition of “human rights”, we find that it is a concept applicable to all people — both in and out of uniform, whether armed or unarmed. Going by that definition, if one steps back and looks at the numbers, we will find that the proportion of “human rights” abuse cases handled by the police utterly dwarfs that handled by the CHR. The difference is that the police don’t put political labels on crime. To them there is no “human rights abuse”, only a crime committed. Kidnapping and murder are crimes against “human rights”. Being deprived of one’s property is a violation of one’s “human rights”. Being assaulted and harassed are “human rights” abuses. To be deprived of privacy is a violation of one’s “human rights”. There really is no point in a “Commission on Human Rights” because the police investigate all cases of human rights abuse without prejudice.
In short, the Philippines, as a state, is currently wholly-constituted as an anti-“human rights abuse” state. The CHR, as such, is a redundant oxymoronic entity and a waste of space. All they do is get in the way of duly-mandated state forces such as the police and the army delivering their services.
Small surprise, then, that the CHR has been perversely politicised beyond recognition. A useless organisation and its leaders constantly suffer from a chronic crisis of relevance. The insecurity that comes with crises of relevance predisposes people to latch on to sponsors and patrons. This is what the CHR is today — an inescure organisation latched on like a barnacle to people or parties it perceives to be sources of power and validation. It is time to end their ridiculous existence.
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