Robredo, senators condemn House approval of ₱1,000 CHR budget

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 13) — The decision of the House of Representatives to slash the Commission on Human Rights' (CHR) budget to ₱1,000 had drawn ire from government officials, including the Vice President.

"Tila pagbuwag sa CHR ang magiging epekto ng desisyong ito. Nagbabadya ito ng kawalan ng respeto sa ating Saligang Batas at sa karapatang pantao -- parehong banta sa demokrasya," Vice President Leni Robredo said in a statement Wednesday.

[Translation:It's like CHR will be abolished with this decision. It forebodes of disrespect for the Constitution and human rights, posing threats to democracy.]

 

In a vote of 119-32, the Lower House approved the measly budget Tuesday. 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.

The National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) also had thousand-pesos each for their annual budget next year.

Robredo claimed the CHR budget cut sends a threatening message to human rights advocates, in the wake of drug-related killings and violence.

But the Vice President said, "Hindi pa tapos ang deliberasyon. Umaasa tayong mananaig ang nararapat sa ipapasang badyet."

[Translation: Deliberations aren't over. We're hoping the proper budget will prevail.]

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.

Senate committee approves ₱678-million for CHR

Some senators also called out the House decision, as the Senate Finance Committee approved on Monday the ₱678 million budget proposal of the CHR.

In tweets, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Francis Escudero, and Sonny Angara questioned the budget allocation for the human rights agency.

 

Lacson proposed the measure to approve the P678-million budget.

Meanwhile, former CHR chair and detained Senator Leila de Lima, slammed the solons behind the budget cut, as well as President Rodrigo Duterte, who claimed early Wednesday morning that CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon was to blame.

"Pathetic. This is despotism at its finest. This is absolute arrogance of megalomaniacs. This is once again a clear proof of Duterte's power hungry, morally bankrupt and crooked governance," De Lima said in her 158th dispatch from Camp Crame Tuesday.

Another critic of the Duterte administration, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, slammed the decision, adding there is P1.35-billion allotted for the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), which has been in hot water for issues surrounding its Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson and the blunders of the Philippine News Agency.

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"May pera sa fake news pero wala sa karapatang pantao?" Hontiveros said in a statement Wednesday.

[Translation: There's money for fake news, but none for human rights?]

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Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said the CHR deserves a working budget, saying: "I will work for the restoration of the CHR budget as submitted by the President."

The CHR is a staunch critic of the Duterte administration's war on drugs, with the magnitude of killings that may involve human rights violations.

It has recently asked for case files from drug killings, a request that President denied. The CHR, however, said it will exhaust all legal means to secure the spot, investigation, forensic and inventory reports related to the drug war.