BANGKOK, Thailand—Activists came to the defense of the beleaguered Commission on Human Rights (CHR) after the House of Representatives (HoR) gave the agency a thousand-peso budget in 2018.
In a statement, human rights group Karapatan said the 119 representatives who approved the punitive budget are “sycophants…(who) are having a field day with their fascist and anti-people schemes in the past days.”
Karapatan added the HoR decision is an attempt by the chamber’s so-called super majority to clip the functions of a constitutional body mandated to check on the human rights violations of State actors.
“We view the recent attempts of the (Rodrigo) Duterte administration to de facto abolish the CHR as a dangerous step that undermines available mechanisms for redress for human rights violations in this so-called democratic form of government,” Karapatan said.
A representative who voted against the budget said Duterte’s HoR wants to cripple the CHR.
“(The thousand peso) budget for the CHR will cripple it amidst the extrajudicial killings, military and police abuse, (and) state-sanctioned violence,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago said.
In the plenary debate on the 2018 General Appropriations Bill Tuesday night, 1-Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta moved for the P1,000 budget , accusing the CHR for failing to investigate alleged violations by terrorists.
Marcoleta’s move mirrored HoR Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s threat last August 7 to give no budget to the CHR.
“Kung ako ang tatanungin ninyo e, zero kapag ganyan ang performance. Bakit? Hindi natin ia-abolish kasi constitutional budget, eh di wag mong bigyan ng budget yan,” Alvarez said.
Asked to comment on the HoR vote, Alvarez said his desire for a zero budget was not actually granted.
“Hindi naman zero. One thousand. Kasi hindi nila ginagawa ang trabaho nila. Yung mandato nila under the Constitution, hindi nila ginagawa,” Alvarez said.
The speaker said if the CHR wants to protect the rights of criminals, it is better off asking the criminals for a budget.
Duterte, for his part, blamed CHR chairperson Chito Gascon for the HoR decision, saying the agency chief had it coming.
“Dilawan talaga iyan e,” Duterte in a press conference said.
Meanwhile, Gascon said they are saddened by the HoR’s “whimsical and capricious display of vindictiveness” but are grateful to the 32 representatives who voted against the budget.
We were heartened by many members of the House who stood their ground to defy the tyranny of numbers shamelessly exhibited tonight (Tuesday),” Gascon said in a statement.
“We draw strength from their solidarity as we press on with pursuing our mandate to uphold and defend the human rights of all,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)