Latest blog articles
'Minuscule, embarrassing, unconstitutional': 32 solons oppose P1,000 CHR budget
The solons who objected the move to give the Commission on Human Rights a P1,000 budget raised the need for the agency to exist and function given countless human rights violations in the country. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives' approval of a meager P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights is "embarrassing" and virtually abolishes the constitutional body, solons opposed to the move said.
An overwhelming 199 representatives voted Tuesday in favor of giving the CHR a fund of P1,000 for 2018 while only 32 objected.
The voting was repeated at least twice as shouts of nays overpowered the ayes, which was attributed to visitors at the House gallery chiming in.
Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza urged presiding Deputy Speaker Eric Singson not to "commit the mistake of railroading [the] measure" after the latter moved in favor of the yes votes.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a staunch ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, defended that the allocation is appropriate for the CHR as it has been deficient in fulfilling its mandate to protect the human rights of all Filipinos. The CHR has been investigating the mounting deaths in Duterte's war on drugs.
Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar, the sponsor of the agency's budget, countered that even if it was assumed that CHR was negligent in performing its duties "the remedy is not to terminate or immobilize the constitutionally mandated agency."
He also warned that appropriating only P1,000 to CHR is equivalent to practically abolishing a constitutional body which the House doesn't have a power to do, an argument that Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman also pointed out.
"We cannot abolish a constitutional office by legislation," Lagman said.
The final voting was accomplished by having solons for and against the move stand up to be counted.
Some of those who voted against were:
Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus
Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas
Quezon City Rep. Kit Belmonte
Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate
Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano
Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio
Cebu City 1st District Rep. Raul Del Mar
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman
Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Raul Daza
Negros Oriental 1st District Rep. Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong
Maguindanao 1st District Rep. Bai Sandra Sema
Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao
CHR 'should be given P2B'
Del Mar, Lagman and Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza also disputed that the CHR was not "validly created" as forwarded by 1-Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta.
Marcoleta claimed that Executive Order 163 which created CHR was issued on May 5, 1987 after President Corazon Aquino lost her revolutionary powers.
"I would like to restate that at the time President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order 163 it was before Congress convened. That being the case, she possessed both executive and legislative powers," Del Mar said.
Lagman also answered arguments made by Marcoleta that the CHR committed dereliction of duty for not investigating offenses by the Abu Sayyaf, Maute and rebel groups.
He said Marcoleta has failed to distinguish the difference between common crimes and violations of human rights.
"A human rights violation is an offense committed by the state or agents of the state. Non-state parties like rebels, terrorists and oultlaws, when they commit crimes, they are sanctionable under the Revised Penal Code because they commit common crimes not violations of human rights," Lagman said.
READ: What Duterte gets wrong about the CHR
The solons who objected also raised the need for the CHR to exist and function given countless human rights violations in the country. Over 12,000 deaths have been reported in Duterte's drug war. A lower number of 3,811 deaths in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to August 29, 2017, however, were released by the government.
READ: Albayalde: Interpreting Duterte 'kill' remarks up to cops' judgment
Lagman said that approving the motion was a "miniscule, embarrassing and unconstitutional move."
"We used to threaten agencies with reducing their annual budget to even P1 or zero," Del Mar said.
"But really your honor it's ridiculous especially so because it involves an agency created by the Constitution as an independent body to serve a crucial concern of our nation—to investigate on its own or complaint from any party all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights."
On Monday, the Senate finance committee approved CHR's proposed P678 million budget for next year. The House and Senate would reconcile the final budget of the agency at the Bicameral Conference Committee. — with Kristine Joy Patag