It is really up to Chito Gascon, head of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to convince the Filipino people why his organisation deserves to be allotted more than 1,000 pesos this year. Congress, after all, are made up of popularly-elected representatives of the Filipino people. As such, their decision to grant this sum to the CHR is representative of what Filipinos want.
If one considers what the CHR actually do, 1,000 pesos is a princely sum. The CHR is, essentially, a redundant organisation. A third wheel. Its presence alone reminds Filipinos that theirs is an inefficient Third World nation — a society where you need watchdogs to watch the watchdogs who watch the police. The issue of “human rights” cannot be solved by kluges such as the CHR, however. It should be addressed by fixing law enforcement and the criminal justice system. But rather than focus resources on the root causes of social injustice and developing systemic solutions, somebody came up with the bright idea of creating the CHR.
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We can thank Cory Aquino’s 1987 Yellowtard Constitution for the waste of space that is the CHR. Because Filipinos were so high on anti-police and anti-military opiates back in 1987 following their “people power revolution”, they regarded their police and military as the problems and not the potential solutions that they should have been regarded as. So, the geniuses of the time thought, well, let’s throw in a couple hundred million bucks to employ permanent “human rights advocates” to watch over the police and the army. Unfortunately, instead of an objective advocate, what they essentially created was a political animal.
The CHR was, in short, born of politics and will, ultimately, die of politics.
Indeed, in hindsight, it is now easy to see that hatred for the police and the army is primarily politically-motivated. It is an outcrop of Martial Law Crybabyism — because the “victors” of that 1986 coup d’etat built their slogans on a rebellion rhetoric that demonises the police and the military. It is on that hatred that the CHR built its brand and value proposition — that Filipinos can run and make sumbong to them if they are harassed by state forces. Like shamans, priests, and fortune tellers, the CHR thrives in a society that believes in ghosts and superstition. When a society matures into a more secular and level-headed one, religion and shamanism are out the door. When Filipinos build professional police and military forces, the CHR is out the door.
Seeing that Filipinos are once again warming to the police and the army and are led by a president who puts their soldiers’ and policemen’s welfare above that of crooks and rebels, the CHR’s time to dismantle itself has come. If they don’t do it themselves, somebody will do it for them. It seems that Congress has taken that first step.
That said, what is a professional CHR chief executive to do? Simple. Don’t do what Chito Gascon is doing by being a crybaby about the whole thing. Gascon is a relic of a time when the CHR was a successfully-manufactured beacon of morality and, as such, goes about his job with a sense of entitlement. Under his watch (and predecessors who carried with them that same sense of entitlement), the CHR became akin to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) — an institution that remains too comfy with a sense of entitlement to a moral ascendancy they no longer possess. If the CHR is to regain its relevance, it needs to professionalise and disengage from politics. The police and army have done the same — perhaps not to the standards many of us would like to see it achieve, but are evolving nonetheless.
The same cannot be said about the CHR and its cousin in self-entitlement, the CBCP both of which have yet to shed their organisational cultures of moral pomposity and evolve into modern institutions that do not insult the intelligence of the Filipino people as a matter of routine.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.