Sereno: Pressure gov't agencies to uphold human rights amid impunity

By Kristine Joy Patag

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Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was invited as keynote speaker at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines' two-day Pagtugon sa Hamon forum. Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday urged the members of the bar to pressure key government agencies to uphold human rights amid "increasingly glaring atmosphere of impunity."

Speaking at the Pagtugon sa Hamon summit organized by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Sereno stressed that the country is in "times that are not only dangerous but also demand that we make use of every available opportunity to advance the interests of the country."

Sereno lauded the IBP efforts to pull together several law organizations that aim to "come up with collective and individual course to remedy, in what is an increasingly glaring atmosphere of impunity, [to] understanding, analyze the legal context of extra-judicial killings and their allege relation to the war on drugs."

Key institutions

The chief justice stressed that upholding human rights need collaboration between independent institutions of accountability and professional justice offices.

She identified the Commission on Audit, Commission of Civil Service, Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Human Rights as independent institutions of accountability. While the Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Corrections are the legal offices.

She implored the floor that the said government agencies "must work in parallel" and "challenged to go fully the path of upholding human rights."

Sereno says civil society, law professionals must exert pressure on key government agencies to ensure an end to impunity. | @kristinepatag

— Philstar.com (@PhilstarNews) November 23, 2017

The police said that they are investigating more than 6,000 deaths that are said to be carried under the government's bloody drug war. Human rights group, however, put the number at more than double as they record more than 13,000 deaths under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Functional justice sector

The chief magistrate also hammered on the significance of having a functional justice sector.

She urged: "Ultimately, you, the IBP, and the legitimate law and paralegal organizations must exert the same pressure on the police and the prosecution to solve and successfully prosecute the assailants and not leave it to just anyone who desires media mileage to own the issue of making the police accountable for unsolved murders, rapes, robbery and widespread thievery."

"If the issue belongs to anyone, it belongs to you, if you keep silent about these crimes, wittingly or unwittingly, you will be in the subconscious of our people, be considered as indirectly complicit to what they perceive to be as day to day impunity," she challenged the attendees.

Sereno is facing an impeachment complaint filed by Larry Gadon, a vocal supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte. There was no mention of the case in her almost 20-minute speech. She also has not allowed any interview after.

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