The House of Representatives has voted to slash the annual budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to simply 1,000 pesos.
The vote right now (Tuesday, September 12) casts doubt on the long run of the CHR, which has a constitutional remit to maintain the federal government and police to account for abuses towards residents.
The CHR has lengthy been criticised by President Duterte and his allies. They declare the physique ought to focus extra on investigating crimes dedicated by terrorists and criminals. This, nonetheless, is the position of the police and judiciary.
Following the suggestion by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, 119 lawmakers voted to approve the minuscule budget, with solely 32 voting towards.
The proposed budget for the CHR was 649,484,000, together with a retirement and life insurance coverage programme.
Confusion over position of CHR
Proposing the 1,000-peso budget, Rep. Rodante Marcoleta mentioned it might mirror the failure of the CHR to examine rights violations by terrorists.
He additionally claimed that the CHR was not a sound company having been created by President Cory Aquino in 1986 through the revolutionary authorities, when there was no Congress.
Rep. Edcel Lagman replied that it might be unconstitutional to give such a meaningless budget to a constitutional physique, because the 1987 Constitution gave the CHR fiscal autonomy.
He additionally reminded the home that the CHR had no jurisdiction over frequent crimes, comparable to these dedicated by terrorists. It has jurisdiction solely over rights violations perpetrated by the state and its brokers.
“Emasculating and killing the CHR with an annual budget of only 1,000 pesos is unconstitutional, because it virtually abolishes a constitutional body or office by legislation,” he mentioned. “We cannot abolish a constitutional office by legislation.”
Rep. Raul Del Mar, who sponsored the CHR’s budget proposal, denied that it was singling out the police for investigation.
“Does it occur to you that many victims of human rights violations could also be innocent people, even our neighbours, friends, and family?” he requested.
“Even assuming the CHR was deficient in its work, the remedy is not to terminate or immobilise the constitutionally-mandated agency.”
He added that the CHR, being a constitutional fee, may solely be given a poor budget if the Constitution have been amended.
“Let the people who would vote on future amendment to the Constitution decide the fate of the CHR, not us by mutilating and mangling its budget,” he mentioned.
Speaker says CHR is “useless”
Speaker Alvarez, in a televised interview with CNN Philippines, mentioned the CHR deserved the very low budget for being a “useless” company and for defending the rights of legal syndicates.
He mentioned: “Now, if you want to protect the rights of the criminals, get your budget from the criminals. It’s that simple. Why should you get budget from the government and yet you are not doing your job.”
The chairman of the CHR, Jose Luis Martin Gascon, described the choice as “arbitrary, whimsical and capricious”.
“We don’t know what the reasons are for this determined push of the Speaker and the majority in the House for doing this,” he mentioned.
“We had hoped that both the Speaker and the House Majority would have been persuaded by reason and necessity to allocate an adequate budget to CHR in order for us to effectively perform our constitutional mandate as an independent office to protect human rights.”
Mr Gascon mentioned he would enchantment the budget earlier than the Senate.
The House additionally voted a 1,000-peso budget to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, supposedly for the fee’s failure to act on the killings of indigenous group leaders.
After the session adjourned, lawmakers lined up for a photograph alternative, holding up their clenched fists in an obvious signal of help for President Duterte.
The 32 lawmakers who opposed slashing the CHR’s budget have been:
•Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus
•Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal
•Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte
•Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza
•Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate
•Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago
•Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano
•Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao
•Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas
•Act Teachers Rep. France Castro
•Act Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio
•Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar
•Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman
•Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza
•Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong
•Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema
•Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao
•Agusan Del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun
•Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin