‘They can do their worst, I’ll do my part’ – CHR’s Gascon

Bea Cupin

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‘They can do their worst, I’ll do my part’ – CHR’s Gascon
Commission on Human Rights Chairman Chito Gascon shrugs off the insults against him, saying these are 'par for the course' in government

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Chito Gascon on Thursday, September 21, said they would “always stand [their] ground in terms of [their] mandate” as he brushed off personal insults hurled against him by members of the Duterte administration.

“In my case, you know, I was a former member of Congress and I’ve also served in different capacities in government. For me, par for the course. It’s part of the terrain in which we operate. ‘Di ko dinamdam masyado (I didn’t take it personally),” said Gascon in an interview on the sidelines of the CHR’s unveiling of the Jose Diokno monument.

The day before, Gascon met with House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and appropriations committee chairman Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles to discuss the House’s decision to cut the CHR’s 2018 budget to a mere P1,000, supposedly because it failed to do its job.

The House leadership eventually decided to restore the CHR budget, although it cut it down to over P500 million from the original P649.48 million allocated for the commission at the time the budget was tackled before plenary.

Gascon told media that the meeting happened initially through the intervention of Cebu City 1st District Representative Raul del Mar, who sponsored the CHR budget before plenary and voted against the budget cut. Del Mar acted as a bridge for Gascon to speak to Nograles.

Nograles happened to be at Fariñas’ office on Wednesday afternoon, September 20, and so Gascon spoke to the two legislators, who insisted that the CHR should also pay attention to all forms of human rights violations – even those perpetrated by criminals.

“[I told them] that we won’t be able to do that because we are not a law enforcement institution. But we can work with police,” Gascon said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Gascon said that if they want the CHR to cover all crimes as well, their budget should be at par with the PNP. While the CHR was asking for roughly P650 million, however, the PNP’s budget for the war on drugs alone is at P900 million.

Personal attacks

In the days after the House decided to slash the CHR budget, lawmakers who were in favor of the cut or those who were absent during the vote were the target of criticism both online and offline.

In response, lawmakers defended their decision by insisting that the CHR was being selective in prioritizing alleged cases of abuse by state forces such as soldiers and police.

They insisted that the CHR should also look into common crimes or atrocities by terror groups.

On Gascon’s assertion that the budget cut was a political move, Alvarez had said: “Tabingi talaga ang utak noon. Paanong pinupulitika? Magpakita muna siya ng trabaho niya.” (His thinking is warped. How did we politicize it? He should first show that he’s doing his job properly.)

President Rodrigo Duterte himself said Gascon had it coming. In a later speech, Duterte called Gascon a “pedophile” for being “fixated with the death of a young male,” referring to either Kian delos Santos or Carl Arnaiz, both teenagers who died at the hands of Caloocan City police.

Still, Gascon said he hoped to one day have a “meaningful conversation” with Duterte on current issues. (READ: Gascon urges Duterte to view CHR as part of ‘check and balance system’)

Asked if the CHR felt under “pressure” by Congress, Gascon said the commission continues to stand its ground.

“They can do their worst. I will do my part.” – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.