The Senate finance committee has approved the Commission on Human Rights’ (CHR) P678-million budget for 2018 despite a lawmaker’s threat to give it only a P1,000 outlay.
Next year’s CHR budget downgraded by P71 million the commission’s 2017 allocation of P749 million.
It still includes a P28-million fund for the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier threatened to give a P1,000 budget to the CHR for allegedly being partisan against the Duterte administration, particularly for criticizing the President’s campaign against drugs.
In a television interview with CNN on Monday, Alvarez was asked if the cutting of the CHR’s budget to only P1,000 would render the agency useless, to which he replied, “Useless din naman sila ngayon [They are useless even now].”
The commissiom responded, saying it respects Alvarez’s comment.
“We respect the statement of Speaker Alvarez. But the Constitution guarantees fiscal autonomy to all constitutional commissions and offices and we are confident as well as hopeful that Congress shall recognize these,” CHR spokesman Jackie de Guia said in a text message to The Manila Times.
She added, “To be fair, the current administration has provided the highest budget for the commission this year which we hope will be sustained.”
Before the budget was approved, CHR Chairman Chito Gascon also expressed his sentiments through a Facebook post on Monday evening, asking for further support “in challenging circumstances.”
Created by the 1987 Constitution, the CHR is mandated to protect the civil and political rights of citizens in the Philippines by investigating human rights abuses in the country.
It is granted “Status A” as a national human rights institution with complaint handling, human rights education and recommendations on law reform as its core functions.