Se­na­tors: P1,000 for CHR may prompt dead­lock on nat’l bud­get

Business World - - THE NATION - Mario M. Ban­zon, Eli­jah Joseph C. Tubayan, Rose­marie A. Zamora and in­ter­aksyon.com

SE­NA­TORS CROSS­ING party lines have crit­i­cized the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ move to limit the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights’ (CHR) 2018 bud­get to a measly P1,000 — with a num­ber of se­na­tors warn­ing this al­lo­ca­tion may im­pact on the na­tional bud­get be­ing pushed by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte.

In a let­ter trans­mit­ted to House Speaker Pan­ta­leon D. Al­varez on Tues­day, Sept. 12, Mr. Duterte sought “the im­me­di­ate en­act­ment of House Bill No. 6215” on the pro­posed Gen­eral Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Act of P3.77 tril­lion for 2018, which the House ac­cord­ingly ap­proved on sec­ond read­ing Tues­day night.

The House, how­ever, had also ear­lier voted 119-32 to pitch a measly P1,000 bud­get each at the CHR and other agen­cies — a con­tro­ver­sial vote that prompted crit­i­cism among the ne­ti­zenry and also among the se­na­tors, apart from the mi­nor­ity.

Be­sides the CHR, the Na­tional Com­mis­sion on In­dige­nous Peo­ples, and En­ergy Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion were also each given a P1,000.

The next day, Rep. Karlo Alexei B. No­grales ( Davao City, 1st dis­trict), chair­man of the House ap­pro­pri­a­tions com­mit­tee, said in a state­ment that the bud­get “will likely get ap­proved on 3rd and fi­nal read­ing on Sept. 21.”

On the other hand, mi­nor­ity se­na­tors have raised the specter of a reen­acted bud­get — the P3.35-tril­lion bud­get of 2017 — due to dif­fer­ences be­tween the se­na­tors and the ma­jor­ity vote in the House over the CHR’s bud­get.

“We will re­turn the (P678-mil­lion) bud­get (for the CHR) in the Se­nate. We will take the po­si­tion that if the House will not agree to re­store the bud­get of the CHR, then so be it, we will have a reen­acted bud­get,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Franklin M. Drilon said in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day that his of­fice e-mailed to the me­dia.

“The Se­nate, I would like to think, will not stand for the abo­li­tion of the CHR, through giv­ing it a P1,000 bud­get. If the House will in­sist on that, then there will be a dead­lock (on the) 2018 Gen­eral Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Act ( be­ing pushed by Mr. Duterte),” Mr. Drilon added.

His ally in the Se­nate mi­nor­ity, Sen­a­tor Fran­cis N. Pangili­nan, said for his part: “Hindi kami pa­payag sa Se­nado sa in­apruba­han ng House na P1, 000 bud­get para sa CHR. Tu­tu­tu­lan namin nang maigi ang pag-apruba nito sa Se­nado kahit pa hindi maipasa ang 2018 bud­get at ma-re- en­act and 2017 bud­get.” (We in the Se­nate will not abide by the House-ap­proved P1,000-bud­get for the CHR. We will dili­gently op­pose its ap­proval in the Se­nate even if it means not pass­ing the 2018 bud­get and reen­act­ing the 2017 bud­get.)” Kaloko­han ito (This is fool­ish­ness),” Mr. Pangili­nan added. A com­mis­sioner of CHR, Gwen­dolyn Pi­mentel- Gana, had said on Tues­day that she was told by Mr. Al­varez that the P678-mil­lion bud­get will be re­stored if Mr. Gas­con re­signs.

Mr. Drilon said when sought for com­ment, “That is not proper. We should not use the bud­get for things like this. We look at the bud­get and if there’s any­thing wrong in the bud­get, let’s do some­thing, but I don’t think the res­ig­na­tion is part of the CHR’s bud­get.” Mr. Drilon also is­sued a state­ment that “( t) he Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Bloc will sup­port Sen­a­tor Pan­filo Lac­son who chairs the Se­nate sub­com­mit­tee that en­dorsed a P678-mil­lion bud­get of the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights (CHR) for 2018....”Mr. Lac­son for his part said on Twit­ter on Tues­day night: “I hap­pen to be the spon­sor of the CHR bud­get in the Se­nate, along with a few other agen­cies like the DND, ARMM, etc. I ac­cept the chal­lenge.” He also noted, “678M CHR bud­get re­duced to 1K but House ver­sion of 2018 nat’l bud­get stays at 3.767T. It’s in­ter­est­ing to find out how the 677M was chopped.”Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Vi­cente C. Sotto III ac­knowl­edged what he called a po­ten­tial “stale­mate” over this mat­ter when it reaches a bi­cam­eral con­fer­ence.

“Pag­pala­gay na natin nagka­roon ng stale­mate sa bi­cam, may prob­lema na ang buong gob­y­erno,” he said. (Let’s as­sume there’ll be a stale­mate at the bi­cam. Then the govern­ment has a prob­lem.)

But Mr. Sotto also raised the pos­si­bil­ity of the Pres­i­dent ve­to­ing any­thing agreed upon at the bi­cam­eral con­fer­ence.

Bud­get Sec­re­tary Ben­jamin E. Dio­kno, when sought for com­ment, said the Ex­ec­u­tive can­not aug­ment the P1,000 al­lo­ca­tion for the CHR if ever this is ap­proved at the bi­cam­eral con­fer­ence, cit­ing the agency’s char­ac­ter as an in­de­pen­dent body.

For his part, Se­nate Pres­i­dent Aquilino Martin L. Pi­mentel III said, “If you veto the bud­get, it’s per line ap­proach.” He added that Congress can still over­ride the Pres­i­dent’s veto: “May over­ride na­man. ‘ Yung veto mes­sage niya, then two-thirds vote per house.”

Sev­eral se­na­tors also is­sued their state­ments in be­half of the CHR, with Sen­a­tor Fran­cis G. Escudero, for one, say­ing, “I will fight to re­store its bud­get.”

Oth­ers, like Sen­a­tor Em­manuel D. Pac­quiao, also sup­ported restor­ing CHR’s P678-mil­lion bud­get, while ap­peal­ing too for a thor­ough dis­cus­sion (“pag- us­apang mabuti”) on the mat­ter. — with

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