MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers at the House of Representatives on Monday, September 24, urged an increase into the proposed 2019 budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
In the proposed National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2019, the commission is allotted P689.706 million – almost half of its original proposed P1.176 billion.
Committee on Appropriations Vice Chairperson Raul del Mar, who defended the commission’s budget at the plenary, said that the expectations from the CHR should be coupled with funding because “how can they do things with so little.”
“If they have more money, [CHR] would perform more than what they are able to do in so far as the investigations of cases are concerned,” he said during an interpellation by ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio who pointed out the decrease in the commission’s budget.
For starters, Del Mar said CHR needs an additional P45 million for the acquisition of land and construction for 3 regional officers in Calabarzon, Central Visayas, and Northern Mindanao.
In 2018, CHR was allotted P693,043 after the House of Representatives initially approved a 2018 budget of only P1,000.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the commission is mandated to investigate allegations of human rights abuses but has so far faced challenges due to lack of resources and non-cooperation of state forces, including the Philippine National Police. (READ: Climate of fear: Justice remains elusive 2 years into Duterte's drug war)
Low budget risky under 'tyrannical regime'?
Despite the relatively smooth-sailing budget season for the country’s national human rights institution, Tinio said pushing for higher funding is needed so the commission can do well as it faces challenges against President Rodrigo Duterte's violent war on drugs.
“Makakaapaekto ang bawas na budget sa pagpapalakas at pagpapahusay sa paggawa ng kanyang mandato lalo na sa panahon na nangangailangan na lalong palakasing ang CHR sa harap ng papapalalang sitwasyon ng human rights sa ilalim ng Duterte administration,” he said.
(The budget deduction will affect the strengthening in the implementation of its mandates, especially in the period where we really need a strong CHR to face the worsening human rights situation under the Duterte adminsitration.)
Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao echoed Tinio’s sentiments, calling the Duterte administration as “a regime going towards a tyrannical or even complete dictatorship.”
“Malinaw po ang kanyang pinpapakita ngayon na less priority ang mahalagang institution na nagbabantay sa pagpapatupad at proteksyon ng karapatang pantao ng mga mamayaman,” he said.
(It’s clear that an important institution liked the CHR who protects human rights of Filipinos is less prioritized under this administration.)
Duterte and his allies have consistently threatened CHR over its stance against the killings under the violent war on drugs. (READ: The Impunity Series)
The additional budget, if granted to them, will be a great addition and boost in the mandate of the commission, CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said.
"Kung magkatotoo na madadgdagan ang budget, ang aming pangako ay gagampanan namin ng mas buo at lubos sa abot ng aming makakaya ang aming tungkulin na alagaan ang karapatang pantao," he said.
(If it becomes true that we'll get an increase, we promise that we'll do our best to fulfil the mandate to protect human rights.) – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.