Karapatan says CHR's high rating for Arroyo rights record is retraction of critical stance

The human rights group Karapatan expressed disappointment over the recent statement made by Chairperson Purificacion Quisumbing of the Commission on Human Rights giving the Arroyo government a high rating on human rights.

Karapatan said that the CHR has previously been exhibiting independence and is saddened that the CHR is now speaking in unison with Mrs. Arroyo's cohorts.

Karapatan likewise inquired whether the vacillating position of the CHR has something to do with political expediency after the agency have come under scrutiny for allegations of graft and corruption.

"Giving a high score of 8 out of 10 for the human rights record of the Arroyo government is tantamount to retracting its previous critical statements against impunity under this regime, if not exonerating it for its wanton human rights violations," said Ruth Cervantes, Karapatan Public Information Officer.

Karapatan said that the sheer number of journalists and activists who were killed and disappeared already says the Arroyo regime does not deserve a high rating for its human rights record.

Karapatan is incredulous about CHR Chairperson Quisumbing's statement that the human rights situation under the Arroyo government has improved.

"One person gets killed a week. 193 persons abducted under this regime are still missing. We could hardly call the human rights situation improved," Cervantes said.

In his report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in November 2007, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions Philip Alston recognized that the CHR as an oversight "stands out as an oversight mechanism that has safeguarded its independence and mandate." (Report on the Mission to the Philippines, No. 62 page 22)

The CHR seems to be wasting Alston's positive review on them, to wit, "Today, the CHRP has the potential to publicly and authoritatively reveal the reality of widespread abuse despite the near absence of criminal convictions." (Report on the Mission to the Philippines, No. 65 page 23)

"Now, the CHR, an agency that should check human rights abuses has been concealing the truth about the gory human rights record of the regime," Cervantes said.

Cervantes said, "We are saddened that the retraction of CHR's strong statements on the wanton human rights abuses under this administration comes in the wake of Chairperson Quisumbing's upcoming retirement."

Karapatan expressed hope that when Quisumbing retires, she will leave behind a CHR that is a watchdog and not a lapdog. ###