VERA files, a news site published by veteran journalists, busted Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre for questioning why the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is not the one filing charges against cops who admitted to killing drug suspects who allegedly resisted arrest.
This came after CHR chair Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon urged the Department of Justice to file charges against those chops.
Gascon earlier compared the number of people killed during Martial Law to the number of those who died under the Duterte administration.
“Ang naitala sa unang mga taon ng diktadurya (Marcos regime) ng mga napatay ay hindi umabot ng limang libo sa mga unang taon ng diktadurya. Ito po limang buwan pa lamang ay limang libo na ang napatay,” Gascon said.
Aguirre responded, saying that Gascon did not qualify the deaths from legit police operations from the deaths from vigilante killings or other incidents. He added that Gascon should straighten out his figures, knowing that he also fought the Marcos regime.
GMA News noted that Aguirre’s profile on the DOJ site read, “As a student and a young lawyer, he fought the Marcos dictatorship,” leading to the military issuing an Arrest Search and Seizure Order (ASSO) against him after Inciting to Sedition charges were filed against him.
“Huwag na niya ako pagsabihan, wala naman siyang alam; hindi siya abugado. Bakit hindi sila (CHR) magfile ng kaso? Sila may karapatan magfile ng kaso. Kahit siya, yung office niya, may karapatan magfile ng kaso pero kahit isang kaso wala,” Aguirre said.
But VERA files said that filing cases is not part of CHR’s mandate.
CHR is an independent agency formed under the Constitution as a “fact-finding and recommendatory body.” What it can do is to help human rights violations complainants in filing charges. After investigating, making recommendations, the CHR will then forward the results of their investigation to pertinent government agencies with the power to prosecute the erring party.
According to VERA Files, the CHR provided them a document showing the extrajudicial killing cases it has assisted in filing since July 1.
The document showed the CHR’s assistance in four out of eight cases filed, including the case of the father Renato and his son JP Bertes, who were killed inside a Pasay police station in July.
The CHR also investigated these eight cases and are monitoring them.
Gascon also responded to Aguirre’s tirades, saying that CHR was not given powers to prosecute, something that only the DOJ and Office of the Ombudsman can do.
“The extent of CHR jurisdiction is only fact-finding and recommendatory. Why should Secretary Aguirre have to wait for complaints to be filed with the DOJ for the ‘nanlaban’ cases? In these cases, there arises a reversal of presumption because of the admission of killing and self-defense justification must be a matter for the courts to weigh or consider,” Gascon said.
He added that the responsibility of launching a thorough investigation lies with the police and DOJ, considering how “they have access to the necessary human resources and facilities to undertake the same.”
“The CHR as a watchdog and monitoring institution has the role of reminding the government agencies of their responsibilities a duty-bearers. Secretary Aguirre cannot shift the burden of delivering justice to others as it is,” Gascon said.
As to Aguirre dismissing Gascon because he is not a lawyer, VERA Files also proved this to be untrue.
Gascon passed the bar in 1996 and became one of the roll of attorneys in 1999.
Gascon’s Linked In page also showed that that he obtained his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of the Philippines, his Master of Law from the University of Cambridge. His CHR profile revealed that he spent his masteral degree specializing in International Law (Human Rights, Law of Peace, and Settlement of International Disputes). Gascon is a member of the Quezon City Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
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