A le­gal is­sue and a blow vs hu­man rights

Tempo - - Edi­to­rial -

THE House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives de­ci­sion last Tues­day to re­duce the bud­get of the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights (CHR) from ₱678 mil­lion to only ₱1,000 con­sti­tutes a new low in its record.

The first and sec­ond times a vote was taken in the House – by viva voce – the “ayes” ap­peared to be as loud as the “nays.” Nom­i­nal vot­ing was held and, no longer pro­tected by the anonymity of a voice vote, 119 stood to ap­prove the CHR de­ci­sion, as de­creed by House and party lead­ers, against only 32 against.

The Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights was cre­ated by the Con­sti­tu­tion of 1987. “There shall be cre­ated an in­de­pen­dent of­fice called the Com­mis­sion of Hu­man Rights,” it pro­vides in Sec­tion 17 of Ar­ti­cle XII on So­cial Jus­tice and Hu­man Rights. “The ap­proved an­nual ap­pro­pri­a­tions of the Com­mis­sion shall be au­to­mat­i­cally and reg­u­larly re­leased.”

For 2018, the De­part­ment of Bud­get and Man­age­ment in­cluded in the pro­posed ₱3.7-tril­lion na­tional bud­get the amount of ₱678 mil­lion for the CHR, but House Speaker Pan­ta­leon Al­varez claimed the CHR was not do­ing its job. The CHR, it ap­pears, had com­mit­ted the sin of crit­i­ciz­ing the many killings that have been con­nected to the po­lice war on drugs.

Pres­i­dent Duterte was crit­i­cal of CHR Chair­man Chito Gas­con but de­nied he had any­thing to do with the House de­ci­sion to slash the CHR bud­get. Maybe Congress will re­view that de­ci­sion, he said.

The Se­nate led by Se­nate Pres­i­dent Aquilino “Koko” Pi­mentel III, of PDP-La­ban, the Pres­i­dent’s own party, is ex­pected to re­store the orig­i­nal CHR bud­get. Sen. Pan­filo Lac­son, who had spon­sored the CHR bud­get in the Se­nate bud­get hear­ings, said he ex­pects the sen­a­tors to cross party lines to take a uni­fied po­si­tion on this is­sue.

As may have ex­pected, the House ac­tion on the CHR bud­get has drawn wide­spread crit­i­cism from var­i­ous sec­tors, among them the United Na­tions spe­cial rap­por­teur, the hu­man rights group Kara­p­atan, the Bagong Alyansang Mak­abayan, the la­bor group Juan Mang­ga­gawa, Manila Aux­il­iary Bishop Brod­er­ick Pa­billo, and Balanga Bishop Ru­perto San­tos.

Se­nate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said giv­ing the CHR a ₱1,000 an­nual bud­get amounts to abo­li­tion of a con­sti­tu­tional body. “This may set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent, es­pe­cially among our con­sti­tu­tional bod­ies, in­clud­ing the Supreme Court,” he said.

But even with­out this le­gal is­sue which threat­ens our struc­ture of gov­ern­ment, the House ac­tion is seen as a move against the con­cept of hu­man rights, and this is at the core of our cul­ture as a na­tion.

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