Defense secretary backs full CHR budget to lessen violations by police, military

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — The Defense chief is backing the restoration of the Human Rights Commission's proposed budget for next year to keep the police and military in check.

"It keeps…government officials, especially the military and police, medyo ingat sila sa ginagawa nila (they are careful in what they do). Because anything they would do that violates the right of another person, liable sila sa human rights violation," said Delfin Lorenzana, who is also martial law administrator..

As the police and military confront rights violation cases in the wake of the drug war, Lorenzana said the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) could help prevent law enforcers from falling into the trap.

"Kung titingnan mo record namin for the past couple of years, very few lang ang human rights violations na naano sa amin, sa military, practially nill eh," Lorenzana said. "Meron din mga nagkaka-violation na nagkakaron ng kaso, yan ang gusto namin ihinto—people who violate rights of other people."

[Translation: If you look at our record for the past couple years, the military has very few human rights violations, practically nill. Some cases were filed against violators, which we want to eventually eliminate-people who violate rights of other people.]

As the House of Representatives voted to approve next year's budget, 119 lawmakers decided to leave the CHR budget with just P1,000, but 32 opposed the budget cut from the original P623 million approved by the appropriations committee. One hundred forty one lawmakers abstained.

The Department of Budget and Management submitted a P678-million budget for the agency. This was reduced to P623 at the House committee level.

READ: Drilon warns of deadlock in 2018 budget over CHR allocation

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said CHR Chair Chito Gascon "had it coming," saying he earned the ire of members of the House of Representatives.

Lorenzana, however, said the CHR should not be abolished as it is a constitutional body. The P1,000-budget effectively rendered the agency useless.

"Unless i-abolish nila yan, then they have to support, kasi it's a constitutional body, na nandiyan, ginawa ng batas yan, nasa Constitution pa yan eh, di ba. The people cannot be removed, yung head nga di mo pwede tanggalin, impeachment eh," the Defense chief said.

[Translation: Unless they abolish it, they have to support, because it's a constitutional body created by the Constitution. The people cannot be removed, and the head must be removed through impeachment.]

Lorenzana said he had a "very healthy relationship" with the CHR's regional officers when he was still a field commander, and even invited them to lectures about constitutional human rights.

"We have a human rights officer in every unit of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), down to the company, battalion," he said.

READ: House gives CHR ₱1,000 budget for 2018

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had said the agency is not doing its job.

"Gusto ko malinaw 'to. Hindi naman zero. P1,000. Kasi hindi nila ginagawa 'yung trabaho nila," Alvarez told CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday.

[Translation: I want this to be clear. Not entirely zero, P1,000. Because they're not doing their job.]

Following the House decision, several senators, including finance committee head Panfilo Lacson, spoke up against the reduced budget and vowed to restore the full amount.