MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker who supports the House decision to give a P1,000 budget to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for 2018 said it was a “wake-up” call for the constitutional body.
Ako Bicol Representative Christopher Co made the statement in response to public outrage over the House decision.
Asked to comment on criticism that the measly budget was an injustice to the Filipino people, Co said in a text reply to Rappler on Wednesday night, September 13: “Don’t worry, ibabalik lang ‘yan sa Senate. Wake-up call lang ‘yan sa kanila (Don’t worry, the Senate will restore it. That is just a wake-up call for them).”
President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies had slammed the CHR and its chairman, Chito Gascon, for criticizing the rising death toll in the administration’s war on drugs.
Co did not vote on the motion to give the CHR a P1,000 budget for 2018 but said he supported the decision. He cited the position taken by another congressman, identified by his staff as Pangasinan 2nd District Representative Leopoldo Bataoil, who slammed the CHR for not investigating the killers of elite cops or the SAF 44 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
“‘When our soldiers and policemen were mutilated, no one among the CHR stood up to investigate the enemies of the state.’ That is one of the statements of my fellow congressman. And I’m convinced to vote for it. We have the same reason,” he said, implying that he would have cast his vote in favor of the motion if he were around.
Co’s staff said he was in China when the House vote was made.
Another Ako Bicol representative in the House, Alfredo Garbin, said while he was present during the vote, he did not participate “as a sign of protest.”
“We want CHR as a constitutional office to fulfill their constitutional mandate in safeguarding human rights for all the Filipino people and checking abuses and violation of due process on the part of the instrumentalities and agents of the government,” Garbin said.
He also expresssed confidence that the proposed P678-million budget of the CHR will be restored in the Senate.
A total of 119 lawmakers supported the motion of SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta for a P1,000 budget for the CHR. Marcoleta had questioned the CHR’s supposed failure to “defend” the human rights of President Rodrigo Duterte when the New York Times ran an editorial, “Let the World Condemn Duterte,” on April 25, 2017.
Only 32 lawmakers opposed the motion. – With reports from Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler.com