Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday questioned the appointment of lawyer Richard Palpal-latoc as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), noting that he lacked the credentials on human rights work.
“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 new CHR chair,” Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of HRW, said in a statement.
“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’s appointment to the post showed how Marcos “failed this important early test” about his pledge to promote human rights, which he declared during the United Nations General Assembly.
The New York-based HRW, which investigates and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world, said the new CHR chairperson must prove himself worthy of the vital post.
“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,” it said.
CHR spokesperson lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, when asked separately, sent a statement of Palpal-latoc on the recent appointments.
“We take due note of the heightened vigilance of human rights groups and advocates on the recent appointments in the leadership of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR),” Palpal-latoc said.
“We take these as a challenge and we seek the chance to respond to the pressing human rights challenges in the country with an 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,” he added.
The 48-year-old Palpal-latoc will serve a full seven-year term from 2022 to 2029. The term of the previous Commission ended on 5 May 2022.
Palpal-latoc briefly served as Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs under the Office of the President.
In 2020, he was appointed as Assistant City Prosecutor at the Office of the City Prosecutor in Quezon City in 2020.
Palpal-latoc served as a lawyer at the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office IV-A and several positions under the Office of the Ombudsman, particularly as Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer as his last position in the said office.
The CHR said Palpal-latoc is a trial lawyer and has “a robust private practice career.”
Palpal-latoc is also one of the partners at the Rodriguez Esquivel Palpal-latoc Law Firm, together with Presidential Chief of Staff Victor Rodriguez.
He is an alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas—Philosophy (1995) and Bachelor of Laws (2001)—and was accepted to the Bar in 2002.