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Sunday, September 24, 2017 29° Partly cloudy

Senate eyes bigger budget for CHR

Published

By Hannah Torregoza, Mario Casayuran, and Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte’s allies in the Senate on Wednesday vowed to fight for a “bigger” budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) after its counterparts in the Lower House granted the agency a measly P1,000 budget for 2018.

“I am sure that the Senate will give the CHR a more generous budget. It is a body tasked to check abuse and uphold fundamental rights,” Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said in a statement.

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, vice chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the Senate will likely cross party lines during plenary debates in defending the proposed P678-million CHR budget for 2018.

FUNERAL FOR ‘KULOT’ – The hearse bearing the body of Reynaldo ‘Kulot’ de Guzman prepares to leave the house of the teenager in Cainta City at the head of a funeral convoy to the Pasig City cemetery where he was buried Wednesday. Questions still shroud the identity of the body, after the Philippine National Police said a DNA test found that it was not De Guzman. (Rolex dela Peña/EPA | Manila Bulletin)

FUNERAL FOR ‘KULOT’ – The hearse bearing the body of Reynaldo ‘Kulot’ de Guzman prepares to leave the house of the teenager in Cainta City at the head of a funeral convoy to the Pasig City cemetery where he was buried Wednesday. Questions still shroud the identity of the body, after the Philippine National Police said a DNA test found that it was not De Guzman. (Rolex dela Peña/EPA | Manila Bulletin)

“We will debate on this issue in plenary session to determine the extent of the support of our colleagues so that we can have a unified position when meeting our colleagues at the Lower House during a bicameral conference committee,” Lacson said.

Asked how the CHR budget issue would play out during a bicameral conference meeting based on his experience as a lawmaker, Lacson said he trusts that the pro-Duterte administration majority bloc in the Senate would support the pro-CHR position of the five-member Senate minority bloc.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, a former Senate President, and Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party (LP), lead the Senate minority bloc.

Everyone’s right

Angara recalled it was the CHR that discovered the secret jail cell at a police precinct in Tondo, Manila that held women and children unaccounted for at the height of the Duterte administrations war on drugs.

“That act alone justifies (for) more (funds for them),” Angara said.

“It is a body tasked to check abuse and uphold fundamental rights. When I defended their budget way back in 2014, I asked them to focus too on socioeconomic rights and not solely on civil and political rights. Let’s fight for everyone’s rights not just when they die or are threatened, but let us also uphold everyone’s right to live a dignified life where needs and opportunities are attended to,” the senator added.

Sen. Lacson who is the sponsor of the CHR budget in the Senate said he “accepts the challenge” and vowed that the Senate will stand its ground on the issue.

“I happen to be the sponsor of the CHR budget in the Senate, along with a few other agencies like the DND (Department of National Defense), ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), etc. I accept the challenge,” Lacson said on Twitter.

 Minority support

“The Senate, I would like to think, will not stand for the abolition of the CHR, through giving it a P1,000 but if the House will insist on that, then there will be a deadlock for the 2018 General Appropriations Act (national budget),” Drilon said.

“We stand by the decision of the sub-committee of Senator Lacson to give the CHR P678 million budget for 2018,” Drilon added.

“The Senate minority will support him in restoring, or even increasing, the budget of the constitutional commission mandated by no less than the Constitution to protect human rights and to conduct investigations on human rights violations against marginalized and vulnerable sectors of the society.”

Lacson said it is also interesting to note and ask how House lawmakers “chopped” and realigned the P677-million budget of the CHR.

“The proposed 2018 national budget stayed at P3.767-trillion even after it reduced the agency’s P677.99-million budget to P1,000. It’s interesting to find out how the P677-million was chopped,” Lacson said.

Gascon to blame

President Duterte denied having a hand in the lawmakers’ decision to reduce the CHR budget.  Duterte said the CHR chair has only himself to blame for the huge budget cut.  But he remains hopeful the lawmakers would review the decision.  He said CHR chair Chito Gascon “had it coming.”

“Ngayon ‘yang 1,000 na binigay na ng Congress sa opisina niya, kasi galit ang Congress sa kanya [Congress gave his office a P1,000 budget because Congress is angry at him,” the President said during a press conference at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

“Pero ako naman [But for me] since it is really an organ of government, it’s on the Constitution. Maybe someday, they might review their decision. I’m not here to destroy institutions,” he added.

The President also advised Gascon to learn when to make a stand or stay quiet.  “If you are not sure of yourself or where you stand, you might as well just maybe shut up,” he added.

Duterte scored Gascon for meddling in police investigations and coming up with premature conclusions. He said the CHR should compile cases before making the appropriate recommendation.

“They cannot just investigate. Wala naman silang prosecutory power [They don’t have any prosecutory power],” Duterte said about the CHR.

“How are you supposed to be neutral? Ikaw na ‘yung pulis, ikaw pa ‘yung piskal. Tapos when you decide to prosecute, ikaw ‘yung judge [You’re the police, fiscal and when you decide to prosecute, you’re also the judge],” he said.

Duterte also criticized Gascon’s alleged partiality in probing drug-related deaths but ignoring the rights violations committed by local terror groups.

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  • Melenggay Laranery

    All those congressmen who voted for P1000 CHR budget must be impeached for wasting taxpayers monies and betrayal of trust. You cannot punish rank & file CHR employees for this brainless decisions!!! CHR is madandated by the constitution!!!

    • tarikan

      Please review your constitution, Ms. Laranery. I think it’s only the president and the vice president among the elected public officials who are impeachable. You have to wait for an election to replace the rest.

  • tarikan

    “The Senate, I would like to think, will not stand for the abolition of the CHR, through giving it a P1,000 but if the House will insist on that, then there will be a deadlock for the 2018 General Appropriations Act (national budget),” Drilon said.
    That’s a good threat, Sen. Drilon. There is a specter of shutting down the government. I don’t think, for all their bluster, PRRD & his lapdogs in the House have the stomach for it.

  • sea eagle

    Buang Duterte is coward he is afraid of the CHR.

  • concerned citizen

    Why does Gascon refuse to resign as Chairman of CHR? Does he think he is indispensable? Does he think no one else can do the job except him? If he truly cares for the country, and if he is humble enough to know there are other persons who can take his place, he should resign.

    Another thing. Being former director general of LP before he became Chairman does not make him qualified to be chairman. He has proven his biases several times in the past. And he is showing again these days. The chairman should not come from any political party. The LP, if it is sincere in wanting CHR to work effectively, should pressure their friend Gascon to resigning.

    The public should clamor for the resignation of Gascon. He is destroying the CHR.

    The chairman should not come from any political party. I believe PAO Chief Acosta would make a much better chairman.

  • Art Ahdp

    With CHR not doing it’s mandated job, what difference does it make with CHR gone?
    With CHR gone, does it mean our human rights is now unprotected? Well, at least for the criminals…

  • Jose Samilin

    The Lawmakers expectation is what Senator Angara expresses. “Let’s fight for everyone’s rights not just when they die or are threatened, but let us also uphold everyone’s right to live a dignified life where needs and opportunities are attended to.” CHR Gascon apparently failed them, as the Congress considered Gascon’s performance to be “WORTHLESS, DESERVING BARELY P1,000 BUDGET FOR THE NEXT BUDGET YEAR. Therefore, Gascon, is heavily indebted to produce correct performance worthy of its existence, or face imminent abolition next time around.

    Though at the present time, CHR do not have the enabling laws prescribed by the Constitution, the Implementing Rules and Regulation duly adopted by past Congress to enable its legal and juridical existence, like Commission on Election, Commission on Audit, etc.,etc., in order to legally claim budget funding of its operations. HOW WOULD YOU ADDRESS THIS CONCERN MY DEAR LAWMAKERS?