MANILA, Philippines – Again insisting that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) was’t doing its job right, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Monday, September 11, said he wasn’t threatening to totally remove the constitutional body’s budget for 2018 budget, he only wants to give it only P1,000 for the entire fiscal year.
“Gusto ko malinaw ito. Hindi naman zero, [pero] P1,000. Kasi hindi nila ginagawa ‘yung trabaho nila,” said Alvarez in an interview with CNN Philippines. (I want this to be clear. I don’t want to give them a zero budget. I want to give them P1,000. That’s because they are not doing their job.)
Under Executive Order (EO) 292, issued in 1987, the CHR’s approved annual appropriations “shall be automatically and regularly released.”
The CHR has been the focus of criticism, particular from President Rodrigo Duterte, following its statements against the ongoing war on drugs. The Commission has repeatedly expressed concern over deaths linked to the drug war, particularly those whom they claim were unjustified. It is still reviewing cases of police kills and homicides with alleged links to the drug trade.
The Commission’s budget, as proposed by the Department of Budget and Management, is at P678 million – lower than 2017’s P749 million. It originally wanted a P1.723-billion budget. Deliberations on its 2018 budget have been skipped twice over since plenary deliberations began last week – first, supposedly because legislators did not know CHR officials were in the building and, second, because they were not called to plenary.
CHR Commission Chito Gascon acknowledged Alvarez’s threat to dramatically reduce their budget but expressed hope that other members of the House would intervene or that the Senate – which will also scrutinize the budget – will reconsider.
Gascon earlier emphasized the need to fund the CHR, given apparent cases of killings linked to the drug war. But Alvarez seemed unmoved.
Asked about how “useless” the CHR would become if its budget was reduced to a mere P1,000, Alvarez quipped: “Useless rin naman sila ngayon eh (They’re useless now anyway).”
“’Yung mandato nila under the Constitution, hindi nila ginagawa. Ano ‘yun? Para protektahan ‘yung karapatang pantao ng lahat ng tao, hindi lang nung mga kriminal,” said Alvarez, among President Rodrigo Duterte’s fiercest defenders in Congress. (They are not doing their mandate under the Constitution – that is, to protect the rights of every person, not just that of criminals.)
The Davao del Norte 1st District representative added: “Ngayon, gusto nila kriminal lang ang poprotektahan nila. ‘Pag merong victims na hindi ano, itong mga victims mismo ng human rights, ayaw nilang magsalita. Wala man lang silang programa para sa mga biktima. Pero kapag ka ‘yung rights ng criminal ay maingay sila.”
(Now, they want to protect only the rights of criminals. If there are victims of human rights violations, they don’t speak. They don’t even have programs for these victims. But when it comes to the rights of criminals, they are noisy.)
When anchor Pinky Webb pointed out that the CHR’s role was to check on possible abuses by state forces, Alvarez insisted this was not the case. “’Yan, ‘yan nga eh ang sinasabi nila. Pero basahin nila ang letra ng Constitution. Ano’ng mandato nila sa Constitution ng Republic of the Philippines? Para protektahan ang karapatang pantao ng lahat, hindi lang ng ano, bantayan ‘yung pulis, bantayan yung gobyerno kung umaabuso,” he said.
(That’s what they say. But they should read what the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines says. What’s their mandate? To protect the rights of all, not just to check on the police, to check on the government if there is abuse.)
The CHR was created in 1987 through several articles in the Constitution, the Administrative Code of 1987, and EO 292. Article XIII of the Constitution states that the CHR has the following functions:
- Investigate, on its own or upon the complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights
- Adopt its operational guidelines and rules of procedure, and cite for contempt for violations thereof in accordance with the Rules of Court
- Provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons within the Philippines, as well as Filipinos residing abroad, and provide for preventive measures and legal aid services to the underprivileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection
- Exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detention facilities
- Establish a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance respect for the primacy of human rights
- Recommend to Congress effective measures to promote human rights and to provide for compensation to victims of violations of human rights, or their families
- Monitor the Philippine Government’s compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights
- Grant immunity from prosecution to any person whose testimony or whose possession of documents or other evidence is necessary or convenient to determine the truth in any investigation conducted by it or under its authority
- Request the assistance of any department, bureau, office, or agency in the performance of its functions
- Appoint its officers and employees in accordance with law
- Perform such other duties and functions as may be provided by law
In explainers posted on its official social media accounts, the CHR has clarified that its primary mandate is to check on possible violations of laws by state forces – police and soldiers, among others. It has also checked on allegations of killings by non-state forces, such as private armies.
“Programs for victims,” as Alvarez puts it, exists in the country’s justice system. Criminals can be tried and prosecuted through a combination of efforts by police, prosecutors, public attorneys, and the courts. – Rappler.com