Acquiring higher votes in the affirmative, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved to give only P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights for 2018.
Responding on a motion by 1-SAGIP party-list Representative Rodante Marcoleta, there were a total number of 119 lawmakers who voted to cut down the budget for the CHR from P678-million to P1,000, while there were only 32 lawmakers who voted against it during the House budget plenary debates.
During his interpellation, Marcoleta stressed that the commission was being “selective” in its investigation of human rights violations. He added that they are supposed to investigate all human rights violations regardless of which group a person belongs to.
“There shouldn’t be a selective application. You can condemn but that is not the function of the CHR,” the Representative said.
Before a final decision was made, the House had to vote twice — through voting by viva voce and by standing to indicate a vote.
Pampanga Representative Rimpy Bondoc proceeded to vote on the motion through viva voce wherein members were asked to say “aye” if they are in favor to reduce the budget and “nay” if they are against the motion.
When Deputy Speaker Eric Singson claimed that ayes won, Buhay Representative Lito Atienza warned his colleague “not to commit the mistake of railroading this measure” since it is a very important issue.
Singson then asked the lawmakers to cast their vote through standing up if they approve the measure, to be followed by those who disapprove. After a headcount which yielded to 119 votes in the affirmative, the Deputy Speaker announced that Marcoleta’s motion was approved.
Below is the partial list of Representatives who voted against the P1,000 budget for the CHR:
- Emmi de Jesus (GABRIELA)
- Kit Belmonte (QC, 6th District)
- Jose L. Atienza Jr( BUHAY)
- Carlos Isagani T. Zarate (BAYAN MUNA)
- Sarah Jane I. Elago (KABATAAN)
- Gary C. Alejano (MAGDALO)
- Ariel ‘Ka Ayik’ B. Casilao (ANAKPAWIS)
- Arlene D. Brosas (GABRIELA)
- Antonio L. Tinio (ACT TEACHERS)
- Raul V. Del Mar (Cebu City, 1st District)
- Edcel C. Lagman (Albay, 1st District)
- Raul A. Daza (Northern Samar, 1st District)
- Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong (Negros Oriental, 1st District)
- Bai Sandra A. Sema (Maguindanao, 1st District)
- Kaka J. Bag-ao (Dinagat Islands, Lone District)
- Lawrence H. Fortun (Agusan del Norte, 1st District)
Cebu City Representative Raul Del Mar, who sponsors the commissions’ budget, have justified the agency saying that condemning is part of their action in investigating human rights violations whether by state authorities or non-state authorities.
“Does it occur to you that many victims of human rights [violation] could also be innocent people, even our neighbors, friends, and family?” Cebu Representative said.
According to Del Mar, even assuming that the CHR was lacking in its work, the solution is not to terminate or immobilize the constitutionally-mandated agency. He further added to let people who would vote on future amendment to the Constitution decide the fate of the CHR.
Meanwhile, CHR Chairman Jose Luis Martin Gascon assured that the agency will keep doing its job despite the reduction of their budget. He said that for now they will draw strength from the courage of their friends who supported them and will encourage the agency’s employees to continue doing the hard work every day.
“We will appeal to our friends in the Senate. In the end, whatever happens, we can reassure that the Commission on Human Rights will continue doing its mandate,” he said.
The CHR Chair admitted that he became teary-eyed not because their budget was cut down, but because there were so many who stood up.
“Not the majority, but so many. In fact of those at the first stage who did not vote aye but had to stand up also approached me and said: That’s the politics of the majority,” he said.
Gascon also added that he was overwhelmed by the support the CHR had received from the public.
After the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), CHR is the third agency to be given only a P1,000 budget from the Lower House.
After the House, the proposed budget for the three agencies will go through the Senate before these are submitted for final approval to President Rodrigo Duterte.