The Commission on Human Rights (Filipino: Komisyon sa Karapatang Pantao) (CHR) is an independent constitutional office created under the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, with the primary function of investigating all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights in the Philippines.[2]

The Commission is composed of a Chairperson and four members. Commissioners hold a term of office of seven years without reappointment. The Philippine Constitution requires that a majority of the Commission’s members must be lawyers. As a National Human Rights Institution, the Commission enjoys Status A accreditation by the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. [3]


After the ratification of the 1987 Philippine Constitution on 2 February 1987, which provides for the establishment of a Commission on Human Rights, President Corazon Aquino, signed Executive Order No. 163 on May 5, 1987, creating the Commission on Human Rights and abolished the Presidential Committee on Human Rights. [4] The Commission was created as an independent office mandated to investigate complaints of human rights violations, promote the protection of, respect for and the enhancements of the people's human rights including civil and political rights.

Duterte administration

On 24 July 2017 during his State of the Nation Address (SONA), Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said that the commission was "better abolished."[5] The CHR responded in a statement that only a change to the 1987 Constitution could possibly abolish it.[6]

On the evening of 12 September 2017, the House of Representatives of the Philippines voted 119-32 to give the CHR a budget of only 1,000 for the entire year of 2018, which, if made law, would effectively abolish the commission.[7] The commission had reportedly asked Congress for a budget of ₱623,380,000, and it condemned the vote.[8] As of 13 September 2017, the budget had not been finalized and was still subject to further amendment before approval by the Senate of the Philippines and by the President.[9] If the Senate rejects the proposed CHR budget, such action will trigger a bicameral committee made of members of both houses to resolve the dispute.[10]

Mandates and functions

The Commission derives its mandates from the Constitution, relevant domestic laws, and the eight core International Human Rights Instruments to which the Philippines is a State Party, as well as other United Nations Human Rights Conventions newly enforced.

Under Section 18, Article XIII of the Philippine Constitution, the Commission's sole duty is to protect the civil and political rights of citizens in the Philippines.

Based on the Philippine Constitution, the Commission has a broad mandate, which can be categorized into three major functional areas:

The Supreme Court of the Philippines, in Cariño v. Commission on Human Rights, 204 SCRA 483 (1991), declared that the Commission did not possess the power of adjudication, and emphasized that its functions were primarily investigatory.[12]

The Commission on Human Rights have the following powers and functions:

  1. Investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights
  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 under-privileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection
  4. Exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detention facilities
  5. Establish a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance respect for the primacy of human rights
  6. Recommend to 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;
  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
  11. Perform such other duties and functions as may be provided by law[13]


The chairperson and commissioners of the commission have fixed seven-year terms, with Gascon serving as the commission's chairperson until May 5, 2022.

Qualifications for CHR chairperson are as follows: [14]

  1. A natural-born citizen of the Philippines;
  2. At least thirty-five years of age; and
  3. Has not been a candidate for any elective position preceding their appointment.
Chairpersons of the Commission on Human Rights
Commission Name Took office Left office
1st Mary Concepcion Bautista 1987 1992
Sedfrey A. Ordoñez 1992 1995
Aurora P. Navarette-Reciña 1996 2002
Purificacion Quisumbing 2002 May 2008
4th Leila de Lima May 2008 June 30, 2010
Etta Rosales September 1, 2010 May 5, 2015
5th Chito Gascon June 18, 2015 Incumbent


Tenure of Chairperson and Commissioners

In a Press briefing on July 27, 2017, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella claimed that the CHR Chairperson and its commissioners "serve at the pleasure of the president" and that they may be replaced at the President's pleasure. [15] This claim was based on the Executive Order No. 163-A that amended the Section 2, Sub-Paragraph (c of Executive Order No.163, stating that "The Chairman and Members of the Commission on Human Rights shall beappointed by the President. Their tenure in office shall be at the pleasure of the President." [16]

However, the said executive order was questioned in the Supreme Court in the case: Bautista v. Salonga, G.R. No. 86439 on April 13, 1989; leading to the declaration of the said executive order as unconstitutional. Taking a quote from the said Supreme Court ruling, "Indeed, the Court finds it extremely difficult to conceptualize how an office conceived and created by the Constitution to be independent as the Commission on Human Rights-and vested with the delicate and vital functions of investigating violations of human rights, pinpointing responsibility and recommending sanctions as well as remedial measures therefor, can truly function with independence and effectiveness, when the tenure in office of its Chairman and Members is made dependent on the pleasure of the President. Executive Order No. 163-A, being antithetical to the constitutional mandate of independence for the Commission on Human Rights has to be declared unconstitutional." [17]

CHR as a Constitutional Office

Under the Article IX of the 1987 Constitution, three constitutional commissions were established namely: the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and the Commission on Audit (COA). The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), on the other hand, was created under the Article XIII, Section 17 of the 1987 constitution and the Administrative Code of 1987. [18][19]

In a Resolution of the Supreme Court contained in G.R. No. 155336, it ruled that the CHR is a .."constitutional body enjoying limited fiscal autonomy..."[20]

External links


  1. ^ "Gascon is new CHR chairman". The Philippine Star. Retrieved September 15, 2017. 
  2. ^ Section 18, Article XIII, Constitution of the Philippines
  3. ^ "Chart of the Status of National Institutions" (PDF). OHCHR.org. Retrieved May 19, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Executive Order No. 163, s. 1987". The Official Gazette. Retrieved September 17, 2017. 
  5. ^ Gavilan, Jodesz (24 July 2017). "'My men' can snub your probe, Duterte tells CHR, Ombudsman". Rappler. Retrieved 2017-09-14. “Iyong CHR, iyong opisina dito, you are better abolished, I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated,” he said. “Remember this, human rights commission, you address your requests through me because the armed forces is under me and the police are under me, kaya kapag kinwestiyon mo sila for investigation, dumaan muna sa akin (If you question them for investigation, you better go through me).” 
  6. ^ Mateo, Janvic (26 July 2017). "'Rody can't abolish CHR without amending Constitution'". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 2017-09-14. 
  7. ^ Viray, Patricia Lourdes (13 September 2017). "Who moved to give the CHR a budget of P1,000?". philstar.com. Retrieved 2017-09-14. 
  8. ^ Arguillas, Carolyn O. (13 September 2017). "Nene Pimentel on 1,000 peso budget for CHR: Congress can't abolish CHR". Mindanao News and Information Center Service Cooperative (Mindanews). Retrieved 2017-09-14. 
  9. ^ Cruz, RG (13 September 2017). "How CHR practically lost its budget". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved 2017-09-14. 
  10. ^ Jamaine, Punzalan (13 September 2017). "Hope remains for P678-M CHR budget". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved 2017-09-14. 
  11. ^ a b c "Strategic Action Plan 2015-2016" (PDF). Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. Retrieved 20 May 2017.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  12. ^ Cariño v. Commission on Human Rights, G.R. No. 96681, 2 December 1991, 204 SCRA 483, 492
  13. ^ "Commission on Human Rights". Lawphil.net. Retrieved May 19, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Constitutional Commissions". The Official Gazette. Retrieved September 15, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Palace clarifies: Duterte threat to abolish CHR made 'out of frustration'". INQUIRER.net. Retrieved September 17, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Executive Order No. 163-A" (PDF). The Official Gazette. Retrieved September 17, 2017. 
  17. ^ "G.R. No. 86439 April 13, 1989". Supreme Court of the Philippines. Retrieved September 17, 2017. 
  18. ^ "1987 Philippine Constitution". Republic of the Philippines. Retrieved September 18, 2017. 
  19. ^ "Executive Order No.. 292". Republic of the Philippines. Retrieved September 18, 2017. 
  20. ^ "COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION (CHREA) Represented by its President, MARCIAL A. SANCHEZ, JR., Petitioner, - versus - COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Respondent".