HRW: P1,000 budget for CHR blow against accountability in PH drug war killings

Jodesz Gavilan

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HRW: P1,000 budget for CHR blow against accountability in PH drug war killings
The New York-based human rights organization says the move by legislators in the House is part of the administration's attempt to prevent independent institutions from checking its abuses

MANILA, Philippines – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday, September 12, hit the P1,000 ($20) budget given to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by the House of Representatives for 2018. 

In a statement, HRW Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said that it will definitely “deal a blow against accountability for human rights violations in the Philippines.”

Acting on a motion by SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta, 119 voted in favor of giving the Philippines’ national human rights institution a measly P1,000 while 32 legislators voted against it.

This move by legislators, according to HRW, is the latest in the offensives by allies of President Rodrigo Duterte against those who have heavily criticized its bloody war on drugs. (READ: ‘Demonizing’ human rights in the first year of Duterte) 

“The vote by an overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives is part of the Duterte administration’s attempt to prevent independent institutions [from checking] its abuses, particularly in the context of the brutal drug war that has claimed the lives of thousands, including dozens of children,” Kine said.

HRW calls for the Senate to ensure CHR will fulfill its mandate to investigate abuses as stated in the Constitution.

“While the CHR’s performance as a constitutional body may not have been fully satisfactory to many Filipinos, its mandate is important in combatting human rights abuses,” Kine said. “Instead of defunding it, Congress should increase its resources and ensure that it fulfills that mandate.”

Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign has been widely criticized for its high death toll of more than 3,500 deaths in police operations. Meanwhile,the number of people actually killed by vigilantes is still being contested. (READ: CHR: Death toll in drug war higher than what gov’t suggests)

The New York-based organization joins many individuals and groups who have called out the decision of legislators to approve the measly amount for the country’s national human rights institution. (READ: P1,000 budget for CHR? Netizens react on House decision with #CHRBudgetCheaper)

United Nations (UN) rapporteur Agnes Callamard slammed the move, calling it “reprehensible and unconscionable.”

The commission, however, will not automatically get the small amount for the coming fiscal year as the budget will still go through another round of deliberations in the Senate. (READ: Slides and Ladders: Understand the budget process) 

On Monday, September 11, the Senate finance committee approved CHR’s proposed budget amounting to P678 million. 

CHR said it looks forward to defending its budget before the Senate while hoping for more “rational minds.”–

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.