Why House solons gave 3 gov't agencies P1,000 budget

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 13) — How are government agencies supposed to do their jobs if they can only spend less than P3 per day for the entire 2018?

The House of Representatives has approved giving only P1,000 to the the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for their 2018 budgets.

Representatives from the House who voted for the budget slashes gave reasons behind the huge funding cuts.

Failure to defend rights

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Lawmakers frustrated with the performance of the CHR said the budget cut effectively renders the agency useless.

During the House budget deliberations on September 12, 119 lawmakers voted to give the CHR a P1,000 budget, while 32 were against it. A total of 141 solons abstained.

During the first reading, the House approved the P623-million CHR budget, down from the Department of Budget and Management's requested P678-million budget.

1-SAGIP Party-list Representative Rodante Marcoleta during his interpellation accused the agency of being selective in its investigations of human rights violations.

"You are supposed to investigate all human rights violations irrespective of any group, any location whether they are soldiers, policemen, NPA (New People's Army), members of the Maute group," Marcoleta said.

Speaking to CNN Philippines on Wednesday, he again questioned the ability of CHR to investigate all violations.

"I said every Filipino deserves to be protected in terms of their human rights. And they said yes, that is in the Constitution. Yes, we agree that this is the mandate of the Constitution afforded to the human rights commission. But why are you so selective?" he said.

CHR Commissioner Roberto Cadiz, however, said Marcoleta and even House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, do not understand the mandate of the human rights agency.

Alvarez earlier said the CHR failed to fulfill its mandate of defending "all" human rights.

The constitutional body is mandated to conduct investigations on human rights violations involving civil and political rights, involving both state and non-state actors.

"The Commission on Human Rights was created separate and distinct from the Philippine National Police or the law enforcement agencies. The mandate of the commission is to see to it that state obligations in regards to human rights are upheld and respected. It is not our mandate to go after common criminals," he told CNN Philippines' "The Source."

Related: Congressmen don't understand CHR mandate – Commissioner

One of those who voted against the measly budget, Cebu 1st District Representative Raul Del Mar, said the CHR cannot function on such a "ridiculous amount."

"We are actually abolishing (it)," he added.

The CHR said the congressmen are open to giving back the agency's budget if Chairman Chito Gascon resigns, but he is not budging.

"To threaten it with the reduction of the budget on the pretext of asking me to resign would lead to essentially be making the institution forever at themercy of politics," Gascon said.

Agency for IPs get cuts, too

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The NCIP's proposed budget of P1.1 billion is also down to P1,000. Its mandate is to protect and promote the interest and well-being of indigenous peoples.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate on September 12 said the NCIP failed to protect the Lumads from Mindanao.

The tribe has been fighting for their right to their own land, and has decried militarization in their communities.

"We had insisted on the reduction of the budget NCIP in response to the strong clamor of the Lumads and other national minorities," he said.

Zarate also accused the NCIP to have facilitated the violation of the rights of the national minorities in several instances.

"The NCIP has been blind, deaf, and mute as hundreds of indigenous peoples have been killed throughout since its institutionalization in 1998," he alleged.

Zarate's motion was carried by the House without objection.

Controversies hounding ERC

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The ERC was also given the same budget on September 5 from its proposed P351 million proposal. The congressmen said controversies continue to hound the commission.

Zamboanga City 1st District Representative Celso Lobregat made the motion for the budget cut upon the advice of House Speaker Alvarez.

"Yung ERC is riddled with a lot of controversies, a lot of problems. At this point in time, sabi ni Speaker, mas mabuti siguro bigyan na lang natin ng one peso (it's better if we give them only one peso)," Lobregat said.

Read: House gives ERC P1,000 budget for 2018

Among the controversies the commission has faced was the suicide of the late ERC Director Jun Villa due to alleged corruption in the agency involving ERC chair Jose Vicente Salazar.

Lobregat said ERC's own commissioners have filed a complaint against Salazar.

"The internal problems of the ERC have to be resolved kasi if you put money there in that agency, commission, sayang lang kung walang patutunguhan (money will go to waste)," he said.

Lobregat said he hopes the House-approved budget cut will send a strong message for the ERC to fix their problems.

Govt: Budget cuts 'part of the checks and balances'

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the House-approved budget for the three government agencies is "part of the checks and balances of our system of government."

The Senate is set to act on the proposed 2018 budget bill, as approved by the House of Representatives. The proposals will go through the bicameral conference committee, and the reconciled budget will then be up for ratification.

The administration plans to have President Rodrigo Duterte sign a new budget law by January.