LP: Budget cuts would cripple Commission on Human Rights

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CHR livestream UN meeting
Officials, rights advocates and journalists watch the livestream of the Geneva UPR session at the Quezon City office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in this May 2017 file photo. BERNARD TESTA, INTERAKSYON.COM

MANILA – As House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez presses his intent to have the 2018 budget of the Commission on Human Rights slashed to a mere P1,000, the Liberal Party issued a statement Monday appealing to legislators not to cripple the CHR’s proposed budget.

“Any cut in its budget would undermine the ability of the country’s watchdog to fight a rising tide of killings and other human rights violations,” the party said in a statement.

LP noted that the CHR’s proposed budget is even less than half of the appropriations it had previously requested from the Department of Budget and Management.

“We have to recognize the unique character of the CHR in our society. As the ‘conscience of the government,’ it is the CHR’s duty to protect the citizens’ rights from abuses by the state, such as the government, police, and military,” the statement read.

LP continued, “We certainly don’t want a state human rights watchdog that can’t bark or can’t bite to defend and fight for the human rights of Filipinos.”

It added that the CHR would not turn a blind eye on abuses where the victims were law enforcers or government personnel.

Last week, the CHR posted on its verified Facebook page that the looming threat of a zero budget for 2018 would be a violation of the Constitution, and a blatant obstruction (“lantarang paghadlang”) of its mandate as the national human rights institution of the Philippines.

“Mahalaga para sa CHR… ang pagkakaroon ng fiscal autonomy upang mapangalagaan ang pagiging independent ng ahensyang nito, at masiguro na hindi ito maisasailalim sa kontrol ng gobyerno lalung-lalo na sa usapin ng pagpopondo (It is important for the CHR to have fiscal autonomy in order to ensure the agency’s independence, and to prevent it from being controlled by the government, especially when it comes to funding),” the CHR explained.

It said further that each agency established by the 1987 Constitution should have fiscal autonomy. This was defined by the Supreme Court as “independence from outside control (kalayaan mula sa panlabas na kontrol),” which meant that an institution would have the freedom to use its budget, and the ability to use this budget in a way that would respond to its needs as an agency.

In an interview over CNN Philippines, Alvarez had accused CHR of not carrying out its mandate under the Constitution, which was to protect the human rights of people, and not just of criminals.

“Ngayon, gusto nila kriminal lang yung poprotektahan nila (Now, it seems they just want to protect criminals),” he claimed.

“Ngayon, kung gusto mong protektahan yung rights ng mga kriminal, ay kumuha ka ng budget doon sa mga kriminal, ganoon lang kasimple yun. Bakit ka kumukuha ng budget sa gobyerno, hindi mo ginagawa yung tungkulin mo (If you just want to protect rights of criminals, then get your budget from them; it’s that simple. Why do you get a budget from the government when you’re not doing your job)?” he added.

As to the possibility that the rights body could become useless with a P1,000 budget, Alvarez said, “Useless din naman sila ngayon (They’re useless right now, anyway).”