Lawmakers don’t know what they are doing, former CHR chair says

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2017 01:13 AM

Members of the House of Representatives flash the clenched fist sign of President Rodrigo Duterte after they approved on second reading House Bill 6215 or the 2018 General Appropriations Bill on Tuesday. The bill includes reducing the Commission on Human Rights' budget to P1,000. House of Representatives handout photo

MANILA - Former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loreta "Etta" Rosales on Wednesday said the House of Representatives' move to reduce the constitutional body's budget to only P1,000 is "insulting."

"Hindi ba nakakainsulto ‘yun? Itinayo ‘yan at nasa Constitution ‘yan precisely para protektahan ang karapatang pantao ng lahat. And that is a constitutional mandate," Rosales told DZMM.

"Kung irereduce nila to P1,000 ‘yung budget ng CHR, is malaking sampal at dagok sa mga karapatan ng mga mamamayan na ma-protektahan sila. Ako ‘yun ang sinasabi ko, dapat magalit ang taong bayan," she said.

Rosales said the CHR regional offices should call the lawmakers who approved the measure because they don't know what they are doing.

"Ipaalam diyan sa mga 119 congressmen na ‘yan, you don’t seem to know what you are doing. You are actually violating the rights of the people, their protection of human dignity because you have reduced the budget to $20," she said.

The CHR has been accused by Duterte’s allies, including House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, of only allegedly thinking about the rights of suspected criminals and not law enforcers. 

Rosales said this is due to a lack of understanding of the CHR's role.

"Ang dami kong kabigan na mga generals at mga kapulisan na human rights officers and we were able to form, work it out very well. They themselves realize this, na ang karapatang pantao ay ipinagtatanggol ‘yan mismo ng mga kapulisan at mismong militar," she said.

"That uniform symbolizes your authority to protect the rights of the people, to establish peace and order. That’s why more than anything else, you should never allow yourself to be a violator of human rights," she added.

'Duterte should restore CHR budget'

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, meanwhile, said if the decision on the P1,000 budget of the CHR came down to Duterte, he should restore the original fund to show that the administration is not committing human rights violations. 

"Hindi naman makakaganda sa kanyang administrasyon na isara o tanggalan ng budget ang Human Rights Commission, lalo na kung pinupukol at binabato sa kanyang issue ay may kinalaman sa human rights," Escudero told radio DZMM.

"Kung ako kay Pangulong Duterte at sa kanyang administrasyon, ang pinakamaliwanag na testigo na walang silang ginagawang paglabag sa karapatang pantao ay kung merong nagmamatyag katulad ng CHR na hindi kakampi, na hindi nila ini-appoint. Mas maganda at mas credible na testigo iyun kung saka-sakali," he added.

Escudero has vowed to restore the CHR's original budget of P623.38 million, "however inconvenient it may be for some."

He said he is confident the Senate will return the original budget of the CHR, Energy Regulatory Commission, and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, which were all given P1,000 budget by the lower House.

"It will cross party lines, majority man o minority, naniniwala akong mayorya ng Senado, galing man sa oposisyon o administrasyon, ay susuporta sa panunumbalik ng budget ng 3 ahensiyang iyan," he said.

Lawmakers have called for the resignation of the heads of the three agencies, which Escudero said does not justify the P1,000 budget given to the departments. 

"Usually ginagawa yan as a political statement, P1 budget, minsan ipinapasa iyan sa House, sa Senate pero pagdating ng bicam, 100 percent of the time ibinabalik 'yan dahil gaano ka man kagalit sa sinumang pinuno ng ahensya, hindi naman tamang idamay mo lahat ng empleyado at civil servant, not too mention the function of the office dahil lamang sa iisang tao," he said.

Escudero said the government can no longer give additional funds to the agencies once the P1,000 budget has been approved by the President, according to the Supreme Court decision on the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

"At may problema pa rin ang ginawa nila dahil sang-ayon sa PDAF decision ng Supreme Court, kapag nilagyan mo ng P1,000 at 'yan ang pumasa, hindi mo pwede i-augmentan iyan at hindi mo pwede i-realign. Hindi na pwede ‘yung piso-piso budget na ‘yun tapos bubunuan na lang ng Presidente pagdating ng panahon, Bawal na ho 'yun ngayon," he said.