House Speaker: CHR gets P1,000 budget 'as far as House is concerned'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 11) — The lower house is adamant on giving the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) a one-thousand-peso budget, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Monday.

"Gusto ko malinaw 'to. Hindi naman zero. P1,000. Kasi hindi nila ginagawa 'yung trabaho nila," Alvarez told CNN Philippines' The Source. The Department of Budget and Management requested a P678 million budget for the commission in 2018, a cut from its P749 million budget this year.

[Translation: I want this to be clear. We're not giving them zero (budget, but) 1,000 (pesos), because they're not doing their job.]

When asked if the House would amend its recommended budget, Alvarez said "No."

"Hindi [No], as far as the House is concerned," he said. "Useless din naman sila ngayon, eh [They're useless now anyway]."

The House Speaker previously threatened to give the commission a zero budget and hit the agency anew, claiming it failed to fulfill its mandate of defending "all" human rights.

"Kung gusto mo protektahan yung rights ng mga kriminal, eh kumuha ka ng budget doon sa mga kriminal," said Alvarez.

"Ano'ng mandato nila doon sa Constitution ng Republic of the Philippines? Para protektahan ang karapatang pantao ng lahat. Hindi lang bantayan ang pulis, 'yung gobyerno, kung maabuso," he added.

[Translation: If they want to protect criminal rights, they should get their budget from criminals... What is their mandate of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines? Protect everyone's human rights, not just watch over the police and government for abuses.]

The CHR, however, has repeatedly clarified its mandate to focus on state-perpetuated abuse.

 

Under the 1987 Constitution, one of the functions of the CHR is to "investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights."

The Constitution also specifies the CHR must "monitor the Philippine Government's compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights."

The CHR added that it is a National Human Rights Institution envisioned not only by the 1987 Constitution, but also by the Paris Principles. The principles relate to the status of national institutions protecting human rights, and was adopted in a the United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1993.

"Under the Paris Principles, the CHR as a [national human rights institution] shall serve as the watchdog against human rights abuses perpetrated by the government or agents thereof," CHR said in a Facebook post on Friday.

CHR Commissioner Chito Gascon also said that they "continue to expect the Honorable Members of Congress might be persuaded by reason and necessity to adequately fund the CHR."

P1,000 for ERC

Alvarez also said over Facebook Live that he was not singling out the CHR, but that the Congress had also approved a mere P1,000 budget for the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Related: House gives ERC P1,000 budget for 2018

The ERC was accused of anomaly by its late director Francisco Jose Villa Jr., who committed suicide last year. Its Chair Jose Vicente Salazar was suspended last August 2.

Related: ERC chief suspended for another 4 months

Alvarez also said he moved the deliberations on the budget of the Office of the President to Monday. He said he wanted to confront the Office of the Executive Secretary, which is headed by Salvador Medialdea.

"I want the Office of the Executive Secretary to explain why ang bagal ng mga papel doon. Itong kaso ng Chairman ng ERC, mahigit isang taon na iyan diyan nakabinbin," said Alvarez.

"Kailangan mag-explain sila. Kung hindi valid yung explanation, hindi ko ipapasa yung budget of the Office of the President," he added.

[Translation: I want the Office of the Executive Secretary to explain why their papers are so slow. The case of the ERC Chairman has been pending for over a year... They have to explain. If it's not valid, I won't pass the budget of the Office of the President.]

The House of Representatives opened plenary debates for the P3.767 trillion national budget proposal on September 4. The requested budget is 12.4 percent higher than the P3.350 trillion allotted to government this year.