MANILA - Malacañang respects the fixed term of different state agency heads despite their dissent to the administration.
A Palace official said this Thursday after Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, an administration ally, called on Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Chito Gascon to toe the line or resign.
“As far as Malacañang is concerned, we respect the different opinions, beliefs of the different heads of agencies. The statements you heard comes from the other branch, the legislative branch,” Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan said in a news conference.
“They are appointed by the President and previous President. The Palace respects the different heads of agencies, including constitutional commissions," he said.
He said Malacañang respects the fixed term of appointed officials.
“Of course, anyone in the same position would feel slighted if the opinions differ. That’s very natural for every human being, but the official policy is they are appointed for a fixed term. We respect the fixed term. They have their own opinions. This is a free country so we respect the opinions of the different heads of agencies,” he said.
Sotto had said Wednesday that Gascon, an appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III, should just leave his post given his consistent criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs. His term will end in May 2022.
Sotto said Gascon's fierce criticism of the government's anti-narcotics campaign led to the House of Representatives' decision to cut the commission's budget.
The chamber, dominated by the President's allies, had slashed the agency's proposed 2018 budget of P623.38 million to just P1,000.
The chamber’s move drew the ire of critics, who said the measly allocation shows how little the government values human rights.
The budget slash will undergo deliberations at the Senate and the the bicameral conference committee.
Several senators, including those allied with the President, have vowed to restore CHR's budget.
The CHR, a constitutional body, is primarily tasked to investigate abuses by state forces. It has found itself swamped with work under the current administration amid alleged abuses by the police carrying out Duterte’s war on drugs.
Gascon has been vocal against the campaign, putting him at loggerheads with Duterte and his allies.