Human RIghts Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson (Photo from undp.org)

The international non-governmental organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), questioned the appointment of Richard Paat Palpal-latoc as the new chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), citing his absence of experience in human rights work.

Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson noted in a statement that the process of appointment lacked consultation and was questionable.

Palpal-latoc’s appointment also showed that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. “failed this important early test of his commitment to human rights” during the UN General Assembly, he added.

“President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. just slapped victims of human rights abuses in the face with his appointment of a loyalist lawyer with no discernable experience in human rights work as the new CHR chair,” Robertson said.

“The appointment process was totally opaque, lacked any sort of consultation, and raises fundamental questions about whether Marcos is embarking on a process to gut the CHR as an independent and impartial body empowered to investigate rights abuses without fear or favor of those in power,” he added.

Palpal-latoc will serve a full seven-year term from 2022 to 2029 after the previous commission ended on May 5. Marcos signed his appointment papers on September 15.

The New York-based HRW investigates and reports on abuses happening across the world. It stressed that Palpal-latoc should prove himself worthy of the position and should know the Philippine’s international commitments on human rights.

“Chairman Palpal-latoc will have a steep hill to climb to demonstrate that he deserves to sit in that chair, and that he knows up from down about the Philippines’ international commitments on human rights,” he said.

Prior to his appointment, he served as Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs in the Office of the President. In 2020, he was an Assistant City Prosecutor at the Office of the City Prosecutor in Quezon City.

He also worked as a lawyer at the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office IV-A and handled graft investigations and prosecutions under the Office of the Ombudsman. He is a trial lawyer and partner at the Rodriguez Esquivel Palpal-latoc Law Firm.

In a statement issued Friday, Palpal-latoc views criticism by human rights groups and advocates as “a challenge” and pledges to uphold the rights of all under his leadership.

“We take this as a challenge and we seek the chance to respond to the pressing human rights challenges in the country with the assurance that CHR under my leadership will be marked by utmost dedication, unquestionable probity, and speedy disposition of cases in the interest of upholding the rights of all,” Palpal-latoc said.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.