The Commission on Human Rights as a constitutional commission
Proposed Section E of Article IX (Constitutional Commissions)
1) There is hereby created an independent commission called the Commission on Human Rights.
(2) The Commission shall be composed of a Chairman and six Members who must be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and a majority of whom shall be members of the Bar one of whom should be a retired member either of the police force or of the army, and two of whom should be members of Indigenous Cultural Representatives. The term of office and other qualifications and disabilities of the Members of the Commission shall be provided by law.
[(3) Until this Commission is constituted, the existing Presidential Committee on Human Rights shall continue to exercise its present functions and powers.]OMITTED
(4) The approved annual appropriations of the Commission shall be automatically and regularly released.
SECTION 2. For purposes of this Sub-Article, a human rights violation is any violation of the right to life, liberty, property, security, a good name or reputation, family and personal relations, and rights guaranteed by international human rights covenants, treaties to which the Philippines is a party and precepts of customary international law as well as international humanitarian law perpetrated by agents of the state.
SECTION XXX: The Commission shall have the following powers:
(1) Investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights and file the necessary information when it finds probable cause against any agent of the state and his or her accomplices and accessories, or cause the filing of an administrative or disciplinary case when so warranted.
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 underprivileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection and when necessary file as petitioner petitions for the writs of habeas corpus, amparo, habeas data and other protective writs that may henceforth by provided for by law or the rules in behalf of victims or those it has probable cause to hold that they will be victims of the violation of human rights.
(4) Exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detention facilities and direct corrective and remedial measures, compliance with which shall be mandatory on the part of the supervisors of such facilities;
(5) Establish a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance respect for the primacy of human rights;
(6) Recommend to the 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 or to recommend the discharge of State witnesses; provide that: courts may not reject such a recommendation except for the most serious of causes;
(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; and
(11) Perform such other duties and functions as may be provided by law.
SECTION 3. The Congress may provide for other cases of violations of human rights that should fall within the authority of the Commission, taking into account its recommendations.
The proposal endeavors to elevate the rank of the Commission on Human Rights to that of an “independent constitutional commission” subject to no other branch of government and with guaranteed fiscal autonomy.
Unlike the previous prescriptions on human rights, the membership of the Commission shall be extended to include one retired officer of the military or the police, as well as representatives of indigenous cultural communities.
Instead of leaving “human rights” to the vagaries of interpretation, there is provided a working definition of human rights: the violation of rights so enumerated and covered by international covenants and precepts of customary international law by the agents of the State. It is clear then that when such violations are spawned by private individuals, then we may deal with common crimes but not with violations of human rights.
The most important power given the Commission is prosecutorial power in the case of human rights violations, as well as the power to commence administrative or disciplinary proceedings against agents of the State.
Likewise far-reaching is the proposal that the Commission may itself order remediation and relief measures in respect to correctional or detention facilities and that as a result of such a power, may make the non-compliant correctional facility director or chief administratively liable.
It is also necessary to point out that the Commission is designed not only to be reactive but to be proactive as well. When it establishes probable cause that the life, liberty or property of a person may be threatened, the Commission, acting motu proprio may file with the court of competent jurisdiction a petition for the writs of amparo, habeas data or any of the protective writs.