MANILA — Some lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Monday stuck to their vote in favor of slashing the 2018 budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to a measly PHP1,000.
The House’s decision to cut the funding plan for the rights body sparked public uproar last week as several representatives were questioned regarding their stand on the matter. The PHP1,000 CHR budget was approved by 119 House members, while only 32 voted against it.
In a press conference, COOP-NATCCO Partylist Representative Anthony Bravo said the House is sending a message to CHR with regards to the performance of its constitutional mandate to protect the rights of all Filipinos sans any political color or partisanship.
Bravo also clarified that reducing the CHR budget does not mean that the value of human rights is only worth PHP1,000.
ABS Partylist Rep. Eugene De Vera echoed Bravo’s remark, noting that the agency must investigate all forms of human rights abuses, including political and civil rights.
“Ni-review namin ang performance ng CHR at naniniwala kami na hindi nila ginampanan ang kanilang trabaho,” De Vera said. (We reviewed the CHR’s performance and we believe that they were not able to do their job.)
De Vera cited as an example the CHR’s lack of action on “laglag bala” (bullet planting) incidents, particularly noting the case of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Gloria Ortinez who was charged with illegal possession of ammunition.
Under the Constitution, the CHR has the power to “investigate, on its own or on the complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights.”
It is also mandated to “provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons within the Philippines, as well as Filipinos residing abroad and provide for preventive measures and legal aid services to the underprivileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection.”
On his part, ACTS OFW Partylist Rep. Ancieto Bertiz stood by his vote in favor of the PHP1,000 budget, explaining that the OFWs “did not feel for so many years” the support of the CHR on their plight.
“Wala man lang (kaming) nadinig na pagtulong o pag-aruga man lang (mula sa CHR) lalo na sa sector ng OFW,” Bertiz said. (We haven’t even heard any form of help or even care (from the CHR) especially for the OFW sector.)
On Friday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the House may reconsider the PHP1,000 budget of the CHR if the rights body can present programs that are aligned with their constitutional mandate to justify a higher allocation.
“Simple lang, gawin nila yung trabaho nila at i-justify kung anong programa nila para doon sa mga innocent victims,” Alvarez said. (That’s simple, they just have to do their job and justify what their programs are for innocent victims.)
Alvarez explained that the main reason behind the measly PHP1,000 allocation for the CHR was due to its failure to perform its mandate to protect the human rights of all Filipinos.
Alvarez accused the agency of being “selective” as it focused on protecting the human rights of criminals rather than the rights of innocent victims. (PNA)