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Sereno: Institutionalize culture of accountability to protect human rights

November 28, 2017 ·  By ABS-CBN News for news.abs-cbn.com

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Chief Justice Maria Lourder Sereno graces the unveiling of the statue of Commission on Human Rights founding chairperson, Sen. Jose Diokno at the CHR headquarters in Quezon City on September 21, 2017. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Chief Justice Maria Lourder Sereno graces the unveiling of the statue of Commission on Human Rights founding chairperson, Sen. Jose Diokno at the CHR headquarters in Quezon City on September 21, 2017. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday urged government agencies to institutionalize the culture of accountability in a bid to end impunity and human rights violations in the country.

In a keynote speech at a forum on rule of law, justice and human rights in Taguig City, Sereno said exerting “pressure” on government agencies is important to ensure that government workers respect human rights.

“Pressure is important, pressure must be continually built up, in all fora, venues and information platform –for all public officers to respect human rights, to not issue any statement that encourages a disregard for human rights, and to investigate human rights violations,” Sereno said during a forum in Taguig City.

She did not make any direct reference, but Sereno’s remarks came as allegations of abuse hovered over the administration’s war on drugs, where some 3,800 have died in legitimate police operations for allegedly putting up violent resistance.

The administration has repeatedly defended the campaign, saying it does not sanction summary killings nor condone police abuses in drug raids.

A case questioning the drug war is pending before the Supreme Court.

Aside from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), government institutions such as the judiciary, the Commission on Audit (COA), the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Office of the Ombudsman are tasked by the Constitution to serve as “institutions of accountability” when it comes to human rights protection, Sereno said.

The COA, for instance, could look into whether law enforcement agencies work effectively in relation to human rights.

“A police district, for example, can be asked by COA how it is using its resources in investigating extrajudicial killings when rampant killings in the area have been reported,” Sereno said.

The top magistrate also urged government agencies to work with the Department of Justice and its attached agencies to institutionalize accountability.

“The framework of accountability relies on the faithful discharge of duties by these independent institutions of accountability,” Sereno said.

The Chief Justice also called on members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to continuously pressure police officers to solve crimes.

“If you keep silent about these crimes, wittingly or unwittingly, you will be considered as complicit to impunity, by your perceived indifference to the victims of rape, murder, and similarly horrendous atrocities,” Sereno told IBP members.

Sereno said when people complain about criminality, it only means that they clamor for genuine judicial process.

“Impunity is engendered because no one is being caught for crimes that our hapless citizens are suffering from,” she said.

“Make your stand in such a way that no one will doubt that your hearts are with the Filipino people. Let your voices be heard clearly, as a call to our people to unite and defend the freedoms that our forefathers dearly paid with blood for,” Sereno added.

Sereno is facing impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives over several allegations, among them alleged hidden wealth, a lavish lifestyle and purportedly falsifying High Court resolutions.

She has denied the charges, saying the allegations of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon do not constitute impeachable offenses and are based on hearsay.

Gadon has said he had documentary evidence to prove his claims.

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