By NITZ ARANCON
THE man with a mental disorder who died while being locked up in a local government facility in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental, had rights that should have been upheld, and his ailment should have given government enough reason to protect him more, a Commission on Human Rights official said yesterday.
Lawyer Kristine Gaudiel, legal officer of the Commission in northern Mindanao, said this even as she did not rule out a CHR investigation into the death of Rene Fuentes when a fire broke out and destroyed offices and facilities at the El Salvador city hall on Monday.
Fuentes, who hailed from Sitio Badjangon, Barangay Molugan in El Salvador, was first reported to have died while behind bars at the police station located within the city hall compound.
El Salvador’s police chief, Supt. Jerry Tambis, denied that Fuentes was detained by the police but pointed to social workers who allegedly placed the victim under “safekeeping.” But Anuncianon Prospero, head of El Salvador’s social welfare and development office, alleged that Fuentes was locked up in a storage facility of the city engineer’s office by his sister Gina Cabigquis apparently with the consent of local officials.
The storage facility where Fuentes was locked up had stood just beside the police station and several meters from El Salvador’s social welfare and development office.
Gaudiel said Fuentes, despite his mental ailment, had constitutional rights that should have been protected.
She said that based on Paragraph 3, Section 18, Article 13 of the Constitution, the CHR could step in. The clause mandates the Commission to “provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons within the Philippines, as well as Filipinos residing abroad, and provide for preventive measures and legal aid services to the underprivileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection.”
“Ang human rights is universal. Tanan tawo sa Pilipinas, pareho na-ay tawhanong katungod, apan mas labaw nga na-ay protection si Fuentes sa human rights kay apil man siya sa marginalized sector — kanang gitawag nga person with disability,” said Gaudiel.
She said it would be premature to identify who should be held liable for the death of Fuentes pending an investigation.
Gaudiel said the CHR could start an investigation into Fuentes’s death but the Commission would need to receive a complaint first so it could have a basis, and so it could require respondents to answer.
She said the CHR would also need to hear the accounts of witnesses.
“Ipa-agi man gihapon nato sa due process,” Gaudiel said.
She said that while CHR could conduct a motu propio investigation “pero lisod ang pag-prosper ang atong investigation kon walay mo-cooperate sa amo.”