With a vote of 119 to 32, the House of Representatives has decided to give the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) a budget of P1000 for 2018. The commission had originally sought P649.484 million to fund its operations next year.
Speaking to the media, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the CHR deserves this because “they are not doing their constitutional mandate.” He added: “Kung gusto mong protektahan ang rights ng mga kriminal, e kumuha ka ng budget doon sa mga kriminal.”
CHR Chair Chito Gascon slammed the move as a “whimsical and capricious display of vindictiveness.” In a separate statement, the commission bemoaned that the Congress is “undermining (its) role as a check-and-balance mechanism” against abuses by government agents.
The House of Representatives has voted to give CHR a budget of P1000 for 2018
Thankfully for the CHR, this budget proposal is not yet final because Senators are not yet done with their deliberations. Even Senators perceived as administration allies like Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito, and Francis Escudero have already vowed to restore CHR’s budget.
“The CHR is a constitutional imperative and a necessity, however inconvenient it may be for some. I will fight to restore its budget!” Escudero wrote on Twitter.
The CHR has emerged as one of the strongest dissenters of President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called “War on Drugs” ever since his administration began, with the agency oftentimes siding with foreign organizations in criticizing the thousands of unexplained deaths attributed to the said anti-crime campaign.
During his 2017 State of the Nation Address, Duterte warned that he is considering abolishing the CHR because of its insistence on investigating police abuses in their counduct of the “War on Drugs.” He said: “I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated. Human Rights Commission, you address your request through me because the Armed Forces is under me and the police is under me.”
It has also become a common refrain among Duterte’s allies and supporters, particularly on social media, to point out that the CHR is doing nothing to investigate crimes committed by drug dependents. This has prompted CHR to repeatedly clarify that this is the job of the Philippine National Police, not them.
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