MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives will not allow itself to be dictated to by the Senate on the matter of the 2018 budget of the Commission on Human Rights, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said.
“Ako, ginagalang ko ang Senado, pero hindi basta ‘yun ang gusto ng Senado, ‘yun ang masusunod (I, I respect the Senate, but it doesn’t mean what the Senate wants should be followed),” he said in an interview over radio station dzMM on Thursday, September 14.
He said the House contingent would sit down with their Senate counterparts in the bicameral conference to thresh out their different versions of the General Appropriation Act, including the budget of the CHR budget.
In the P3.767-trillion budget the House approved on second reading Tuesday, September 12, the CHR was given only P1,000 by lawmakers, mainly administration allies, who claim the agency has been partial to criminals, particularly suspects slain in the government’s war on drugs.
But several senators, including those from the majority as well as Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, have vowed to restore the CHR’s allocation when they deliberate its proposed budget.
However, Alvarez insisted the P1,000 budget was fitting for an agency he claimed was not doing its job as he maintained that the CHR’s mandate is to protect the human rights of all persons, not of a particular sector.
“Kaya lang, mayroon silang notion na kailangan lang daw ay bantayan nila na ‘yung mga puwersa ng gobyerno ay hindi lumampas doon sa karapatang pantao nu’ng mga kriminal. Aba, malinaw na malinaw ang Saligang Batas na dapat protektahan nila at pangalagaan ang karapatang pantao ng lahat ng tao hindi lamang ng mga criminal (However, they have a notion that they only need to watch that state forces do not violate the human rights of criminal. But the Constitution is very clear that they should protect and ensure the human rights of all persons and not just criminals),” he said.
Created under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the CHR is mandated to conduct investigations into violations of the human rights of marginalized and vulnerable sectors of the society.
For 2018, the CHR sought a budget of P649.48 million (including retirement and pensions), P100 million lower than its 2017 budget.
Some critics of the House decision to slash the CHR budget called the move unconstitutional since it would be tantamount to effective abolition, something Congress cannot do to a constitutional body.
Alvarez, however, said he reviewed the mandate of the CHR and claimed it has “no physical autonomy, unlike the Supreme Court and other constitutional offices.”