CHR cases can be handled by PAO, says Alvarez

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday, September 20, again downplayed outrage over the House of Representatives’ decision to reduce the 2018 budget of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to a mere P1,000.

During the Kapihan sa Manila Bay, Alvarez was asked about CHR Chairman Chito Gascon’s worry that the P1,000 budget would not be enough to fund cases their lawyers handle around the country.

Hindi ba niya alam [na] meron PAO (Doesn’t he know that there’s PAO)?” Alvarez retorted.

PAO refers to the Public Attorney’s Office, a government agency tasked to provide legal counsel to the indigent sector “at times of need.” The office makes sure citizens are given access to courts, due process, and equal protection under the law.

At marami silang puwedeng volunteer lawyers. Alam mo, ang daming paraan. Alam mo, kung gusto, may paraan; kung ayaw, may dahilan, di ba? Hindi naman tayo ipinanganak kahapon, pambihira. Huwag na tayong maglolokohan,” said Alvarez, among President Rodrigo Duterte’s key allies in Congress.

(They can have a lot of volunteer lawyers. There are many ways. If you willed it, there are many ways to achieve it. If you don’t want to do it, you’ll give excuses. I wasn’t born yesterday, are you kidding? Let’s not fool each other.)

The PAO is headed by Persida Acosta. Most recently, the PAO has taken over at least two separate cases wherein Caloocan police allegedly killed two teenage boys in the guise of a legitimate operation. 

For 2018, the PAO has a proposed budget of P2.99 billion. 

Alvarez has been defending the House since its controversial decision to slash the CHR budget during the last day of plenary deliberations for the proposed 2018 budget. (READ: Slash House budget instead of CHR? 'Mga gago,' says Alvarez)

The Davao del Norte 1st District representative insists that the drastic budget cut was not due to politics or personal vendetta but the CHR’s supposed failure to perform its duties. Alvarez and other Duterte allies have criticized Gascon and the commission for supposedly only paying attention to the wrongs committed by state forces.

The House Speaker demands that the CHR shows its “program” for victims of common crimes.

At least 113 lawmakers voted to approve the CHR budget cut, while at least 32 opposed it.

The P1,000 budget is not final. The Senate’s finance sub-committee decided to approve a P678 million budget for the commission.

Differences between the two chambers’ versions of the proposed 2018 budget will be ironed out before a bicameral committee. –