Budget Watch

‘P10,000 is insulting’: CHR seeks more funds for victims of human rights violations

Jodesz Gavilan

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‘P10,000 is insulting’: CHR seeks more funds for victims of human rights violations

JUSTICE. Families of victims of extrajudicial killings light candles beside the portraits of their deceased relatives on July 18, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

'We want to give more if we are able to but we lack the funds for that,' Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Richard Palpal-latoc says as CHR is set to receive only P3.8 million for financial assistance in 2024

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is seeking additional funds to better provide financial assistance to victims of rights violations in the country, including families of those killed under former President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.

The National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted to Congress by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) allotted P976 million for the CHR in 2024 – P1 billion less than the commission’s original proposal of P1.924 billion. The proposed budget also marked a P25.6 million decrease from 2023’s P1 billion.

At least P3.8 million is set to be appropriated for financial assistance to victims of human rights violations. The proposed 2024 budget for this specific program is at least P10 million lower than 2023’s P13.7 million.

CHR Chairperson Richard Palpal-latoc on Tuesday, September 5, cautioned that the “marked decrease” could lead to big changes in how the commission gives out monetary assistance that is “very much needed” by victims. A lower budget would only allow a maximum of P10,000 for financial assistance, from P30,000 in previous years.

“It is a very meager amount considering the nature of why it is given [and] a P10,000 for a violation of human rights is insulting to a victim,” Palpal-latoc told the House appropriations panel.

“We want to give more if we are able to but as I said, we lack the funds for that,” he added.

For 2022, CHR was able to provide P16 million in financial assistance to at least 805 victims. As of first semester of 2023, at least P3.36 million were given to 232 victims.

Rappler has reached out to CHR for details on the breakdown of these numbers, including the type of violations that were committed. We will update this story after the information is provided.

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Muntinlupa City Representative Jaime Fresnedi said that he supports the restoration of CHR’s original proposed budget for financial assistance.

“With increasing cost of everything, I think [the low amount] is not justified,” he said.

Giving compensation to victims of human rights violations is just one of the many mandates of CHR, which is tasked by the 1987 Philippine Constitution to investigate abuses committed by the state.

The commission under the previous administration faced intense criticism and harassment from no less than Duterte as it repeatedly called out the killings in his war on drugs, which the International Criminal Court is now investigating.

Duterte’s flagship campaign led to at least 6,252 dead in anti-illegal drug operations alone between July 2016 and May 31, 2022. The death toll is estimated to rise to between 27,000 to 30,000 if victims of extrajudicial killings are included, based on monitoring by human rights groups.

Most of the victims were breadwinners of families from low-income communities. A 2018 report by the Philippine Human Rights Information Center found that Duterte’s war on drugs further pushed victims’ families into severe poverty. – Rappler.com

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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.