Senate committee okays CHR budget for 2018

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate's finance committee on Monday, September 11, approved the proposed budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for fiscal year 2018.

Amounting to P678 million, the approved budget is lower than 2017’s P749 million. 

The budget includes P649.484 million for CHR alone and P28.565 million for the Human Rights Violations Victims' Memorial Commission, according to the office of Senator Loren Legarda, the committee chair.

In a text message to Rappler, Chairperson Chito Gascon said that the CHR "welcomes the support given at the Senate committee today which has already endorsed positively for plenary deliberation."

The proceeding at the Senate was a far cry from what the Commission is going through at the House headed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. The deliberations on the CHR's 2018 budget have been skipped twice. 

Alvarez earlier said he wants to give only P1,000 to the CHR for allegedly not doing its job. He previously threatened to give zero budget to the country’s national human rights institution. 

Gascon, however, said that aside from "the words from the Speaker that caused us some concern," other officials were encouraging. 

"We hope that majority in the House of Representatives might let reason prevail to see the value, importance, and necessity of funding the word of CHR amidst the current challenges," he said.

"We hope that the budget proposed by the Duterte administration that remains at the committee report at least be retained when it is considered tomorrow at the plenary," Gascon added.

The CHR has been the target of tirades from President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies in the government as it continues to call out the rising number of killings in his bloody war on drugs. (READ: 'Demonizing' human rights in the first year of Duterte)

The government's anti-illegal drugs campaign has so far yielded more than 3,500 deaths in police operations, while the number of people actually killed by vigilantes is still being debated

Created via the 1987 Constitution, the CHR is tasked to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by state actors such as the military or police.

Investigating and arresting non-state actors behind crimes such as murder is the primary responsibility of the police. The Commission, however, can monitor whether or not the state holds them accountable. (READ: Things to know: Human rights in the Philippines)

The Commission, however, has been facing challenges in its investigations into drug killings – particularly as Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police to not share case folders with CHR investigators. – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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