House restores budgets of CHR, NCIP, and ERC

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After receiving just ₱1,000 each for their 2018 budgets, the CHR, NCIP, and ERC were granted their full budgets by Congress Wednesday.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — The proposed budgets of three agencies next year, which shrunk to P1,000, will be restored after all.

The House Appropriations Committee released a statement on Wednesday, saying the restoration of the budgets of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), and National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) were approved "after the respective heads of the three offices appealed to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez."

House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas and Appropriations chairman Karlo Nograles mediated between Alvarez and and CHR Chairman Chito Gascon, ERC Commissioner Geronimo Sta. Ana, and NCIP Chair Leonor Oralde-Quintayo.

"The Speaker basically told Chairman Gascon that we are not the enemy. The Duterte government is not the enemy. We are one with the CHR in the fight against all forms of human rights violations but they must start looking also at the violations committed by criminals and insurgents," Nograles said.

The CHR's 2018 budget was slashed to just P1,000 after it was accused of being selective in its investigations on human rights violations.

Gascon, who said he was grateful for the decision, clarified that the commission has a "broad mandate" on human rights, which also involves violations committed by non-state actors.

"But if they expect us to perform the function that the police perform, that's something we are unable to do because we are not the police force. I made that clear," Gascon told CNN Philippines Wednesday night.

The Human Rights Commission chair said they have had investigations involving non-state actors, but they are focusing on the most predominant human rights violations on ground.

Gascon said the commission will be focusing on human rights protection services for 2018, which will include legal services, legal aid, witness protection, and educating the public on human rights, among others.

"It's a full plate, that's why it would have been impossible with a P1,000 budget. But with the restoration of our budget to reasonable levels, perhaps we can do more," Gascon said.


As for the ERC and the NCIP, Nograles said Alvarez and Farinas "secured their assurance that they would start taking all the necessary steps to fight graft and corruption and to carry out the full mandate of their office."

READ: Why House solons gave 3 gov't agencies ₱1,000 budget

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate on September 12 said the NCIP failed to protect the Lumads, an indigenous people group in Mindanao.

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

From P1.1 billion, the proposed NCIP budget shrunk to P1,000.

The ERC was also given the same P1,000 budget from its P351-million proposal. The congressmen said controversies continue to hound the commission.

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

CNN Philippines digital producers Lara Tan and Pia Garcia contributed to this report.