THE Executive Department won’t amend its proposed P600 million budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), a Malacanang official said on Friday.
“The DBM and the Office of the President proposed over P600 million for the CHR under the General Appropriations Act [that we submitted to Congress]. This shows that the Executive respects constitutional commissions [like the CHR],” Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan of the Presidential Communications Office told reporters on Friday.
The DBM is the Department of Budget and Management.
Ablan’s statement comes after the House of Representatives slashed the proposed P678-million budget of the CHR to P1,000, resulting in public outrage over the move.
This is in contrast to the Senate finance committee, which approved the CHR proposal.
In response to the House cut, senators said they would do their “darn best” to restore the P678-million appropriation in bicameral conference committee.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte said that the CHR deserved such treatment because of its criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs while allegedly protecting the rights of criminals.
Ablan said the House did not reflect the Duterte administration’s policy on protecting human rights.
“We hope that everything [in the proposed budget]which we have submitted will be approved by Congress, including those of the CHR, NCIP and ERC,” Ablan added, referring to National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Energy Regulatory Commission whose proposed budgets were also reduced to P1,000 by the House due to their alleged incompetence.
Under Section 18, Article 13 of the 1987 Constitution, the CHR is mandated to monitor the Philippine government’s compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights; investigate all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights; 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.
The 1987 Constitution was crafted after the fall of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. His declaration of martial law in Sept. 21, 1972 was followed by a spate of warrantless arrests, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances involving 70,000 victims.
“To say that extra-judicial killings is a policy because of the reduction of the CHR budget is a stretch. We proposed over P600 million for the CHR. The legislative is just exercising its authority of providing check and balance in the government. Congress has the power of the purse, and it just wants to make the agencies accountable,” Ablan said. LLANESCA T. PANTI