A Grave Abuse of Authority
The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) is gravely alarmed by the recent announcement of PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte appointing former Masiu, Lanao del Sur mayor Nasser Pangandaman Jr. as a new member of the Human Rights Victims’ Claim’s Board (HRVCB) without apparent vacancy of post and at this time that the Board is about to complete its statutory duties. Mr. Pangandaman Jr is said to replace Board Member Dexter Calizar.
The Human Rights Claims Board which was created by virtue of Republic Act 10368 of 2013 seeks to provide reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime. The Claims Board is not a permanent body as the law gives the Claims Board only two years upon the promulgation of the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations to process applications for human rights compensation and recognition.
In fact, a Joint Legislative Resolution was made to provide the Claims Board another two years to accomplish its mandate due to an enormous number of claims from human rights victims while recognizing the institutional limitation of the Board for the lack of adequate number of personnel to process all the claims. The approval of the extension was clearly a recognition that the government should give equal access to all victims of human rights violations a means of attaining redress through compensation and recognition.
While the appointing power is basically an executive prerogative, the Constitution and other statutory laws however provide provisions restricting or limiting such appointing power. The President can’t disregard the laws enacted by Congress but rather it is his sworn constitutional duty to faithfully execute them to ensure that any government agency can properly discharge its functions.
The appointment of Mr. Pangandaman Jr. to the Claims Board can create confusion and may further hamper the work of the Claims Board especially that there are only six (6) months left (May 11, 2018) to complete its important task. While we do not question the qualifications of Mr. Pangandaman, due process should be observed in the appointment process. Public office after all is a public trust. The replacement of Board Member Dexter Calizar by Mr. Pangandaman is a blatant act of arbitrary removal of a government official even if it is within the aegis of executive control. But it does not give him any license to exercise absolute dictate. It is not because the President wants it, it is right and legal. The laws are made precisely to limit the abuse of authority.
The President therefore cannot undermine democratic processes and disrupt legal safeguards for checks and balances due to politics and personal favor. The President should be reminded that the highest mode of corruption is the abuse of authority. Though, it comes as no surprise.
In the interest of the victims and their families, President Duterte has to withdraw Pangandaman’s appointment as public interest should take precedence over personal or political interest.
Good governance is not just what it takes to make a difference, but what it takes to sit down and listen for the goodness of all.
National Executive Council