Philippine Congress Cuts Budget of Human Rights Commission to $20

Philippines slams UN human rights commissioner report

President Rodrigo Duterte is not likely to step in to help increase the budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) from the P1,000 approved by the House of Representatives, a lawmaker said Thursday.

Nicknamed "the Punisher" for his lethal approach to policing, Duterte has previously threatened to abolish CHR, a body he despises for its criticism of his killing campaign, although he later said his threat was a "joke".

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is hoping that the House of Representatives will reconsider its decision to give a measly PHP1,000 budget to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as this will definitely stiffle the agency's check-and-balance mandate. The European Union has cited "credible reports" that Philippine police falsify evidence to justify extrajudicial killings.

Yesterday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the hard stance taken by the House, which effectively abolishes a constitutional body, would result in a re-enacted budget.

In a text message sent to SunStar Pampanga, CHR-Central Luzon Director Jasmine Regino said that the P1,000 budget given to the agency will not stop it from scrutinizing the suspected human rights violations in the region.

According to Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel, CHR Chairman Chito Gascon could spare the agency of its P1,000 budget for next year if he steps down for his post.

Senator independent Panfilo Lacson, a former police commander, has stated in an interview on radio DZMM that the preliminary version of the budget prepared by the Senate called for an allocation of 678 million pesos to the Commission of Human rights.

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This "war on drugs" has triggered a spate of violence in the country, which was marked by the death in circumstances unexplained of thousands of other people.

Reynaldo Umali, chair of the House justice committee, also asserted that while the CHR is tasked to investigate alleged abuses by state agents, it is also mandated to protect the rights of law enforcers.

On the second reading of the legislation, Congress approved that the figure be slashed to just 1,000 pesos, a huge cut from the 2017 budget of 749 million (US$14,713,685).

On Tuesday, at least 119 lawmakers from the House of Representatives voted to give the CHR a P1,000 budget for next year, while 32 voted against it.

At the same time, he noted the CHR was not a valid agency, having been created by an executive order issued by President Cory Aquino in 1986 during the revolutionary government when there was no Congress.

Lagman also explained the CHR had no jurisdiction over common crimes, such as those committed by terrorists.

"We can talk about it there (bicameral meetings with senators) but we can't just do as they say", he said.

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