PHILIPPINE President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. should ensure a transparent, inclusive process in choosing the members of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
“President-elect Marcos should appoint commissioners with proven track records of defending human rights,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“Given the grave human rights situation in the Philippines, these new commissioners should be independent and strongly committed to fearlessly and impartially upholding the commission’s mandate and duties,” he added.
Mr. Marcos Jr. who will be inaugurated as the new Philippine president on June 30, is expected to announce his appointments in the coming days.
The 1987 Constitution empowers the Commission on Human Rights to investigate human rights violations.
“Marcos ran on a campaign marked by disinformation about his family’s role in human rights abuses during the dictatorship of his father, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.,” the human rights watchdog said.
“The appointment of the commissioners will be an important first test for his administration’s commitment to human rights.”
The term of the five-member CHR ends in May. The Constitution prevents outgoing President Rodrigo R. Duterte from appointing people to executive positions within two months before the May 9 presidential election.
Commissioners are appointed to seven-year terms and cannot be reappointed.
Marcos should convene an independent search committee that will come up with a short list of candidates for commissioners, Human Rights Watch said.
“This committee should identify individuals with strong human rights backgrounds and credentials,” it said. “Convening such a search committee will help ensure transparency in the process.”
Mr. Marcos Jr. would inherit the “dire human rights situation under Mr. Duterte, whose brutal war on drugs resulted in the extrajudicial killings of thousands of people since 2016, Human Rights Watch said.
Drug war killings have continued after the May 9 elections, although the number of cases has dropped considerably, it said. The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into these killings as possible crimes against humanity.
“Marcos is in a strong position to set the Commission on Human Rights in a positive direction for the next seven years by selecting independent, credible rights advocates as commissioners,” Mr. Robertson said.
“By building up rather than tearing down the commission, Marcos would help dispel people’s fears about human rights under his administration,” he added.
Meanwhile, CHR said it would investigate the arrest and detention of 90 farmers, journalists and activists during a land protest in Tarlac City.
In a statement, CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia said their regional office in Central Luzon has been gathering information on the detention after farmers filed a complaint last week. — Norman P. Aquino and JVDO