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CHR execs rebut Duterte: Gascon not a pedophile

CHR Chair Chito Gascon LYN RILLON

The head of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon, is “definitely not” a pedophile, and the term cannot be used, even as a metaphor, to describe his zeal in seeking independent investigations into recent cases of teenagers being killed by police, CHR officials said on Sunday.

CHR Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana and spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia defended Gascon after President Rodrigo Duterte, infuriated with the CHR for investigating alleged extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs, described the agency’s chief on Saturday as a “pedophile” for his focus on the killings of teenagers Kian Loyd delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and possibly Reynaldo de Guzman by Caloocan police last month.

“This Gascon, he has been all about teenagers. You are like a pedophile, you son of bitch. Why do you like teenagers so much? Are you? I’m now having doubts. Are you gay or a pedophile?” said Mr. Duterte in a speech in Davao City.

“I know that Chito Gascon is not a pedophile, definitely not,” Gana said in a radio interview.

The term “pedophile,” she stressed, “cannot be used as a metaphor,” apparently in expectation of the usual Malacañang defense of Mr. Duterte’s controversial remarks: that he often cracks jokes, speaks in metaphors and employs sarcasm.

De Guia, in a text message to Reuters, said Mr. Duterte’s remarks deviated public attention from a critical human rights issue in the Philippines.

No respect for others’ dignity

“These are remarks that do not show respect for the dignity of others. The public must understand that the death of children concerns us all as they are especially vulnerable and need state protection,” she said.

Mr. Duterte also accused Gascon of being a spokesperson for the political opposition and criticized his scrutiny of police operations against illegal drugs.

“Why can’t you move on to other issues that are besetting this country?” Mr. Duterte said, citing the suffering of the people displaced by the fighting between government forces and Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City.

Jose Manuel Diokno, national chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group, also  defended Gascon against Mr. Duterte’s attack.

“President Duterte should remember that when he points his finger at someone, he’s actually pointing four fingers at himself. His remarks are absurd, ridiculous and totally uncalled for. [CHR Chair] Chito is a good man,” Diokno said.

Police have reported killing more than 3,800 people since Mr. Duterte took office 15 months ago, while thousands of others have been murdered in unexplained circumstances.

The deaths of the three teenagers have fueled rising opposition to the campaign, with the influential Catholic Church and human rights campaigners, including the CHR, among the most prominent critics.

House defunds CHR

Last week, Mr. Duterte’s majority allies in the House of Representatives hit back at the CHR, slashing its P678-million proposed budget for 2018 to just P1,000, an attempt to abolish the constitutional institution tasked with protecting human rights in the country.

Vice President Leni Robredo, a member of the opposition Liberal Party who has locked horns with Mr. Duterte numerous times, said the House move effectively abolished the CHR.

The Senate, however, has vowed to restore the CHR’s budget, with some members vowing to stand their ground even if it meant failure to pass the budget.

“They should look at our mandate, what we are supposed to do and what we are actually doing, and please understand it. And if sometimes they think we’re bearing down hard on [the] government, it’s part of our mandate to also watch what [the] government is doing,” Gana said.

“We have no agenda to bring down the government,” she added.

Actually, she said, the CHR appreciates quick action by the Philippine National Police leadership on wrongdoing in the police ranks, as what happened with the sacking of the entire 1,000-strong Caloocan police force after the killings of the three teenagers.

Gana praised Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), who sacked and ordered the retraining of the entire Caloocan police force after the furor over the killings of the teenagers, which was compounded by a raid—without search warrant—of the house of an old woman on a tip she was involved in the drug trade.

Security camera captured images of dozens of officers involved in a raid that ended with the robbery of the old woman’s belongings.

“We saw how quickly they moved on the Caloocan case, and I am pleased with . . . NCRPO chief Albayalde,” Gana said. With reports from Nikko Dizon and the wires

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