‘A ploy to destroy the constitution’
BARCENAS ON CHR BUDGET CUT
The passing of a P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by the House of Representatives is an “attempt to destroy the constitution,” said human rights lawyer Democrito Barcenas, as he also condemned House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for crusading the house bill that drastically slashed the CHR budget.
“It’s a shameful attempt to destroy the Constitution. Speaker Alvarez, together with his minions in the House, deserves the contempt of the people for his acts of not giving sufficient funds to constitutional bodies like the CHR in the performance of their function,” he added.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Cebu spokesman Jaime Paglinawan warned that the budget cut is a signal of an approaching dictatorship of the Duterte regime.
He also related the move to President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to declare martial law in the entire country of armed groups and militants who will bring their armed struggle to the streets, and arrest those who cause in-fighting in his administration.
“The president doesn’t want to have check and balance. He doesn’t want any opponents to investigate his administration’s lapses. He ignores any probes,” Paglinawan said in Cebuano.
“This administration clearly disregards human rights, they are not concerned whether human rights are violated or not,” he added.
Before the House voted 119 – 31 in favor of House Bill 6125, the budget bill for 2018, Alvarez had already threatened to reduce or completely repeal CHR’s budget, saying the human rights body was ineffective and inefficient in carrying out the mandates laid out for the office.
Despite the deluge of criticism it drew, Alvarez said he is unfazed and stood firm that the decision of the lower House cutting down the CHR budget to almost nothing, reached last Monday, was “the right thing to do.”
Barcenas, who heads the biggest group of human rights lawyers in the country, also slammed those who supported the House’s endorsement of the 2018 budget, including Cebu City Mayor
“We condemn those who voted to give CHR a measly budget. They were just following orders from the speaker who acted on cue from President Rodrigo Duterte, who, too many times before, announced to abolish CHR ... And as for Mayor Tommy Osmeña, please do study the Constitution. I disagree with his claims,” he stated.
Osmeña had earlier said he supported the cutting of the CHR budget from P600 million to P1,000.
“I’m getting bwesit (irritated) already. Human rights don’t only work for criminals. It works for the victims of these criminals,” Osmeña was quoted in earlier reports.
In response, Barcenas gave a lecture on the origins of the human rights body intended for the mayor.
“CHR is committed to protecting the victims – all victims of abuses from law enforcement agencies. The CHR, created by the 1987 Constitution, was the aftermath of the brutalities of martial law because there were violations of human rights committed under the Marcos regime. That’s why (it is there) to look after the human rights because, in any government, there are always abuses committed by law enforcement agencies,” said Barcenas.
However, he was confident the Senate would reverse the decision of the House.
“There is hope, and I am happy that the Senators have agreed to provide the necessary funds intended for CHR. I think most members of the bicameral committee will restore the budget of the CHR because public opinion is against the acts of Speaker Alvarez. It has suffered a backlash and people are now condemning that move,” added Barcenas.
“We must acknowledge and appreciate the acts of three Cebuano lawmakers – Wilfredo Caminero, Aileen Radaza and Raul Del Mar for standing up and showing their independence and concern for human rights. I really salute these Cebuanos for not following the acts of the speaker, and for standing up in this issue. The issue of human rights is an issue for everyone,” Barcenas said.