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Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales

During the CHR's 24th Foundation Day Celebration

CHR Grounds, Quezon City

May 5, 2011

Today the Commission on Human Rights celebrates its 24th foundation day. Yesterday we were reflecting on the significance of this occasion, and our theme - 24 years of building a culture of human rights and dignity. One interesting remark was that today CHR turns as old as most of my staff.

Indeed, as a constitutional office CHR is still in its infancy compared to the other constitutional commissions - CSC, COMELEC and COA - whose origins go back to the 1935 Constitution. Yet like my young staff members there is no reason for CHR to feel less worthy of the people's trust just because other constitutional bodies are a lot older, and it is the new kid on the block. I have always believed that the capability to carry one's own weight is not so much a function of age as it is of maturity. CHR is a young but maturing institution.

For 24 years it has steadily honed its various competencies in relation to its constitutional mandate. From a volunteer based presidential committee it has grown into a agency present in all regions of the Philippines. It has undergone several period of development, where the exercise of its mandate was continually refined by the priorities of it's leadership. From investigating civil and political rights violations to domesticating international human rights standards and principles, the stage is now set to its transformation into the country's comprehensive human rights monitor.

At the same time, CHR continues to build solid partnerships with civil society and international partners. This morning we will be signing a MOA with the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy on empowering aleemats - women scholars of Islam - and their communities. Very soon we will be issuing policy directions on human rights and the environment, in cooperation with a coalition of environmental advocates. We'll be embarking on several initiatives with our international partners - Australia for forensics, case management and IPs, UNDP for mainstreaming of the human rights based approach and comprehensive monitoring, APF on LGBT rights, torture prevention and gender equality, and UNHCR on IDP's, refugees and asylum seekers and stateless persons. We have attained class A status in the International Coordinating Committee of NHRI's. Other NHRI's look up to us for expertise in several areas of human rights promotion and protection. We've sent our own staff as experts abroad. The likes of ED Jake, Dir Elzy, Dir Homer and Dir Karen.

Hence, we take this opportunity to reflect on the years that have gone by, and the years that are coming, with the sole purpose of ensuring that human rights become internalized in our heart of hearts. Difficult as it is, we must learn to recognize and respect each other's dignity. Denouncing outside personalities for their abuses while tolerating, perpetrating or suffering in silence internal abuses is nothing but hypocrisy. We want to make human rights a household word. This should begin here in our own home. Let us therefore use this year, going into our silver jubilee, to reflect. Ika nga, isang taong pagmumunimuni.

This will ensure that the celebration of this milestone will not only bring material benefits to us, but would be a transformative activity that would throw wide open the doors to our people to realize their fundamental rights. The Gospel talks about the people of God as the light and Salt of the world. May the CHR be the light and salt in our quest for a life of dignity.