Filipinos reminded Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution when he blasted the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights on the guaranteed right to due process of law.
In a 2020 budget deliberations headed by the Senate, the human rights body proposed a budget of P863 million for next year, which was immediately questioned by administration-allied senators.
Sen. Bong Go, for one, hit the agency for its criticisms against law enforcement agencies and President Rodrigo Duterte, saying that it appeared to favor criminals instead.
CHR chair Chito Gascon responded that criminals still have guaranteed rights despite violating laws of the republic.
Sotto, meanwhile, asked him, “Don’t you believe that when you commit a heinous crime, you have given up your right, you have given up your human rights?”
Gascon reiterated his answer to Go and said the following, “According to our Constitution, all persons are guaranteed rights to due process.”
Sotto plainly responded, “Unfortunately, I do not share your thinking.”
His response was met with criticism from social media users who reminded him that the Constitution is still the highest law of the land and therefore, should be upheld by every Filipino, particularly public officials.
Historian Kristoffer Pasion responded to Sotto’s remarks by retweeting it and reminding the public that the Constitution is the highest law of the land that must be upheld with dignity and respect.
This is why the entirety of the Philippine Constitution, with all its implications, most esp. the Bill of Rights, must be taught in Araling Panlipunan. Let us stop producing a generation of Tito Sottos who take the law into their own hands as if they are above it. https://t.co/EsedBDwcqo
— Kristoffer Pasion (@indiohistorian) November 18, 2019
Another user suggested that Sotto needed to be reintroduced to the Constitution.
“The Senate president doesn’t think everyone has the right to due process. Christmas is coming, maybe someone should offer him a copy of the Constitution,” the particular user wrote.
A meme was also shared on Reddit that highlighted a provision from the Constitution about one’s rights to due process.
It was not the first time that Sotto had clashed with Gascon.
Two years ago, the senate president told Gascon that lawmakers had decided to reduce the budget of CHR to a mere P1,000 because of the latter’s criticisms against the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign.
Sotto added that Gascon should “resign” if he does not agree with President Rodrigo Duterte’s policy.
Article III or the Bill of Rights under the 1987 Philippine Constitution guarantees one’s right to due process of law. Section 1 of it particularly reads:
“No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”
Further, the Constitution is considered the highest law of the land as it is the basis of all Philippine laws that every Filipino must uphold, defend and protect.
Human rights, additionally, are also enshrined on international documents such as the United Nations’ International Bill of Rights which is separated into three.
These are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Criminals’ rights are also specifically acknowledged in UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
The Philippines is part of the intergovernmental organization that oversees international peace and security, among others.
As one of its signatories, it is obliged to recognize and apply such laws to ensure maximum enactment and fulfillment of such rights.