Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed outrage over the move by the House of Representatives to slash next year’s budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) amid the rising human rights violations in the country.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, lamented that some members of the Lower House are easily coerced to give CHR a measly budget for fear of opposing the Duterte administration.
“Sukdulan na talaga ang kademonyohan nitong administrasyong Duterte. Sagad-sagaran na ang kapal ng mukha ng mga Kongresistang sunud-sunuran sa kabaliwan ng Malacañang,” she said in a Dispatch from Crame No. 158.
“Isanlibong pisong budget para sa Commission on Human Rights? Sa gustong mangyari ng karamihan ng mga “kagalang-galang” na Kongresista, ginawa na rin nilang inutil ang CHR sa mandatong pangalagaan ang karapatang pantao mula sa pag-abuso ng gobyerno gaya ng pagpatay sa mahigit labintatlong libong Pilipino,” she added.
Acting on a motion by SAGIP Partylist Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, 119 lawmakers voted for a P1,000-budget for CHR in 2018 while only 32 legislators voted against the motion.
Based on reports, President Duterte said CHR Chair Chito Gascon was to blame for the Constitutional body’s House-approved 2018 budget, calling the latter a “fool” for meddling in police investigations.
The CHR, created under the 1987 Constitution, is tasked to protect citizens’ rights from abuses by the state.
De Lima, former chairperson of the CHR, slammed the “pathetic” President for being vindictive of those who dare oppose his policies like CHR.
“Wala na talagang tinirang kahihiyan si Duterte sa Pilipino at sa mundo. Pathetic. This is despotism at its finest. This is absolute arrogance of megalomaniacs. This is once again a clear proof of Duterte’s power hungry, morally bankrupt and crooked governance,” she said.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and the President have launched relentless attacks on Gascon and the CHR for being watchful of the abuses happening under the administration.
Duterte earlier threatened to abolish CHR following its alleged interference on how government security forces deal with drug-related cases as Alvarez threatened to slash CHR’s budget to zero.
Gascon, however, maintained that any talks to abolish CHR would take constitutional amendments or Charter change.
The Senator from Bicol, at the very least, commended the 32 Congressmen who voted against the “ridiculous” House-approved CHR budget.
She further called on her colleagues in the Senate to fight for CHR and not tolerate the House’s move, saying, “for once, let us stand united against this insanity. The world is watching.”
Even with the House’s approve budget, it is not yet final that the CHR will only get P1,000 for the coming fiscal year, as the budget will still go through another round of deliberations in the Senate.
Last Sept. 11, the Senate finance committee approved the CHR’s proposed budget amounting to P678 million, which is apparently lower than 2017’s P749 million.
De Lima, who was recognized by Amnesty International (AI) as one of the notable Women Human Rights Defenders, vowed to continue fighting against injustices even while in detention.