'Stupid,' bishop says of P1,000 budget for CHR

MANILA, Philippines – Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes denounced as "stupid and shameful" the decision of the House of Representatives to give a 2018 budget of P1,000 ($20) to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

"This is a most stupid and shameful decision the Congress has made," Bastes said in a news release issued by Church-run Radio Veritas on Wednesday, September 13.

"This decision effectively abolishes a constitutional provision that ensures the protection of the basic rights of human beings," Bastes said.

He said that lawmakers behind this "are guilty of violating the Philippine Constitution" and can be prosecuted. 

Bastes made these comments after the House of Representatives on Tuesday, September 12, voted 119-32 to allocate only P1,000 for the CHR in 2018. 

Born in Loboc, Bohol, the 73-year-old Bastes is also the former bishop of Romblon. He belongs to the Society of the Divine Word, where he was once a provincial superior. 

In his remarks disseminated by Radio Veritas, Bastes added, "Giving a budget of Php 1,000 for the CHR is a mockery of our democracy." 

"The country will be a laughingstock among nations which have respect for human rights, enshrined by the United Nations and the law of God," the bishop said. 

Like Bastes, United Nations rapporteur Agnes Callamard also criticized the P1,000 budget for the CHR, saying it is "reprehensible and unconscionable."

In contrast, the House earlier approved a P900-million ($18-million) budget for Oplan Double Barrel, the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the Philippine National Police. – Rappler.com

*$1 = P50.95

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.