THIS time, it’s not just about the resignation of Human Rights Commissioner Chito Gascon.
For Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) can get back its P678-million budget for 2018 if it could come up with programs that would enable it to fulfil its mandate provided under the Constitution.
“The CHR can have its budget back if it can give us programs. What are your programs that will enable you to fulfil your mandate under the Constitution? Now, if we see that you have a good program, why will we not give back your budget? There is still a bicameral conference committee. But first, it has to justify its budget,” Alvarez said in a press briefing at the Makati Shangri-La on Friday.
Alvarez also said that there was nothing political about P1,000 budget the House appropriated to the CHR as it was a punishment for not doing its job under the Constitution.
Alvarez said all the CHR had to do was to do its job.
“The CHR should do its job. That’s all there is to it. We provided only a P1,000 budget because it was not doing its job. It is simple, it has to justify its programs for the innocent victims,” he said.
Alvarez also slammed some lawmakers who opposed the House decision to slash the P678 million budget, saying they misunderstood the CHR’s function.
“This is what the CHR is trying to preach. It is not reading the Constitution. It should read it like it is its Bible. It should read its mandate,” he said.
“It is clear that it should protect everyone, not just who it wants to protect. Being selective has no room for human rights.”
Alvarez, however, did not forget Gascon who, he said, was politically selective about who to protect, citing his visit to Sen. Leila de Lima who is detained on drug charges at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center; and the Mamasapano case involving the deaths of 44 members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) in the hands of Muslim insurgents on Jan. 15, 2015.
“When he visited de Lima, I asked him who else did he visit. He told me that he visited no one else because he did not have any time left. If you are to visit the prisoners, the cells are close to each other, why did you not visit them? He did not check the status of the other prisoners,” he said.
“Another example is the Mamasapano case. Did the CHR do anything under his leadership? It is very clear that there was a violation of human rights, especially to the soldiers who were left for dead.”
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez had called for the resignation of Gascon in exchange for the restoration of the CHR’s P678-million budget for 2018.
“I am willing to ask the majority to reconsider the P1,000 budget of the CHR if there will be a reorganization,” Suarez said after the budget cut.
This decision has brought the lawmakers in the House on collision course with the Senate, which vowed to do its best to bring back the original proposed appropriation.