On the southeast side of Commonwealth Avenue, and right across the Asian Institute for Tourism (AIT) is the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) SAAC Building. The building used to be the home of the State Accounting and Auditing Center (SAAC), before it was turned over to the commission in 1987. The CHR is an independent government office that was originally formed in 1986, under the office of Pres. Corazon C. Aquino (1933-2009), after the ouster of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos from the Philippines. Headed by former Senator Jose W. Diokno (1922-1987) and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Benedicto L. Reyes (1902-1994), the CHR was formally founded with its inclusion in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. The CHR’s primary programs are the Human Rights Protection Program, the Human Rights Education Teaching Exemplars, and the Human Rights Linkages Development and Strategic Planning.
At the lobby of the CHR, there is a bust of Senator Jose “Pepe“ Wright Diokno (1922-1987) who was the founding chair of the Commission on Human Rights, and of the Free Legal Assistance Group. The sculpture was created by Atanacio Caedo, right after the death of Senator Diokno, and was installed at the CHR.
Anastacio Tanchauco Caedo (1907-1990) graduated from U.P. School of Fine Arts; under the tutelage of National Artist, Guillermo E. Tolentino. During his apprenticeship under Tolentino, the two took to body building as a means to understand the human anataomy and strengthen their bodies for he very physical work of sculpture. This love for body building led Tolentino to fashion his opus “The Oblation” after Caedo’s physique. Later Caedo made name for himself by sculpting many religious works for the Jesuits at the Ateneo de Manila and busts of the National Hero Dr. José Rizal for many of the Philippine Embassies around the world. Caedo was nominated three times as a National Artist of the Philippines (in 1983, 1984, and 1986); which he turned down, to avoid the politics in the art world.
Also at the lobby of the CHR is an untitled mural by the social realist art collective, known as Guerilya. The painting was created in 2015, calling for the passing of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, and comparing the gagging of the truth to the chaining of Lolong, the largest crocodile held in captivity, which was caught in the marshes of Agusan in 2011, and died in captivity in 2013.
The latest artwork to be installed at the CHR is a life-size sculpture of Sen. Jose Diokno, as he stands defiantly facing Commonwealth Avenue, from the very front of the CHR compound. Created by the feminist sculptor, Julie Lluch, the monument is a reminder to all who pass along Commonwealth Avenue of their vigilance to protect human rights.
Julie Lluch (born 1946) was born in Iligan; and she has been a stalwart in feminist artist since the 1970s. First known for her life-size terracotta sculptures of herself, representing various issues and statements on a Filipina’s life, Julie has then moved on to experiments in film, as well as public sculpture made of bronze. She married fellow artist, Danny Dalena; and they had three daughters, whom they call the Tres Marias (three Marias), who have all become noted artists in their own right. In 1990, she was recognized with the Thirteen Artist Award.
From its creation, the CHR has exhibited a true independent and unbiased nature, no matter who is the president who appointed its director. Just as Se. Diokno resigned in protest of Pres. Corazon Aquino’s indifference to the 1987 Mendiola Massacre, same goes to the present director who challenges the actions of our present president. And to this day, the downtrodden and the destitute troop towards the CHR to have their voices heard, against the deaf ears of society.