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Lawmaker threatens to give CHR P1 budget
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is threatening to give the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) a P1 budget for next year.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, appropriations committee chairman, made the threat on Thursday night shortly after CHR Chairman Chito Gascon told reporters that Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez wanted to cripple his agency by giving it just P1 or P1,000, as the House did with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
President Duterte has repeatedly said he wanted to abolish CHR and ERC.
“Obviously, there are many unresolved issues in CHR, which is why consideration of their budget was deferred. Remember that there are other agencies that have been deferred and not just the CHR,” Nograles said.
He said Gascon should not jump the gun on the House by saying Alvarez wanted to give them only P1.
“He is practically begging that Congress gives him a P1 budget by spreading those rumors. I would advise that he refrain from doing that. If the House really wanted to give CHR P1, it would have happened already, just like when ERC was given a P1,000 budget,” he said.
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The President proposed giving CHR a budget of P623.4 million for next year, down by about P101 million from this year’s funding level of P724.9 million.
Thursday was the second time the House deferred consideration of the CHR outlay.
Gascon and other agency officials stayed at the House premises the whole day only to be told at about 7:30 p.m. to return on Tuesday, the last day of deliberations on the proposed P3.8-trillion 2018 national budget.
On Wednesday night, they were told to go to a holding room, but no one summoned them to the session hall when Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar started defending their budget. Their supposed absence prompted the first deferment.
Apparently anticipating a drastic reduction in the funding of the agency he was tasked to defend, Del Mar made an impassioned appeal to his colleagues and House leaders not to do it.
“The CHR is a constitutional body created to perform the mandate of being a protector of human rights and a watchdog of human rights violations. It does its job without fear or favor. It should be shielded from partisan politics,” Del Mar stressed.
“Its creation is part of the check-and-balance system in our democracy. We should thus give CHR an adequate budget,” he added.
He stressed that crippling the agency by denying it sufficient funding would mean that the House is unwilling to respect and protect human rights.
In giving ERC a P1,000 fund for next year, House leaders said they were willing to restore its P351-million outlay for 2018 if its chairman, Jose Vicente Salazar, resigns.
The Office of the President has suspended Salazar for alleged insubordination. It has also asked ERC commissioners to explain recent expensive trips funded by a private entity in the energy sector.
Salazar, who enjoys a fixed term of office, has refused to resign.
Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy yesterday said the CHR must seek clearance from the President if it wants to have access to the case folders on deaths under investigation and killings of drug suspects in police operations.