Zero budget for human rights commission? Gascon fears the worst
Zero budget for human rights?
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Jose Luis Gascon on Thursday expressed fear that Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez would make good on his threat to give zero 2018 budget to the constitutional body, critical of the administration’s war on drugs.
Gascon shared his fears in an interview with reporters Thursday night, saying this was the second time the CHR’s budget was not tackled in the House of Representatives’ budget plenary debate.
The CHR’s P649.484-million budget (inclusive of retirement and life insurance program) was scheduled for debate on the floor on Wednesday but was deferred because there were no officials on the floor that afternoon.
Apparently, there was a “miscommunication” because the CHR officials were in a faraway holding room, and they were not informed that the budget was already up for debate, Gascon said.
“Ang nangyari, deferred yesterday dahil sa miscommunication. We were here the whole day pero nasa malayong holding area. By the time sinabi sa amin na pumunta na dun, yun pala, nakasalang na. Ibig sabihin, wala kami, andoon sila pinag-uusapan at sinabing deferred,” Gascon said.
During the early part of the interview, Gascon said he thought the CHR was only going through the budget process, and that the deferred budget plenary debate on the CHR’s appropriation was only “par for the course.”
Later on, he admitted that CHR commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana, sister of Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, sought audience with Speaker Alvarez, who vowed to push through with his threat for a zero budget for CHR.
“Ang report sa akin ni Commissioner Gwen, ang current position ni Speaker Alvarez ay maaaring gusto niya pang ituloy yung nasabi niya na bawasan ang aming budget,” Gascon said.
Asked if Alvarez meant slashing the budget or putting it to zero, Gascon said: “Yung sinabi ni Speaker na i-ze-zero.”
Gascon said he fears that the CHR would suffer the same fate as the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), which received a measly P1,000 budget from the House.
The ERC faces increasing pressure from the House due to corruption allegations following the suicide of its director Francisco Jose “Jun” Villa Jr., who exposed corruption in the commission in his suicide letter.
“Ang understanding ko, pag sinabing zero, baka di talagang zero. Baka tulad nung nangyari isang araw (sa ERC),” Gascon said.
“Naglolokohan nga kami na kung P1,000 yan, 600 staff namin, baka bigyan namin sila ng tigpipiso. May P400 pang pang-gasolina,” he added.
Gascon said the latest killings of Reynaldo De Guzman, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Kian Delos Santos were enough reasons to increase the CHR’s budget, not to slash it to zero.
He admitted that the CHR was finding it difficult to keep up with the increasing number of deaths due to the drug war.
“Itong sunod-sunod na namamatay na mga bata na kailangang matugunan… ay isa pang dagdag na argumento kung bakit hindi napapanahon na i-zero ang CHR budget. Bagkus, dapat palakihin pa ang budget,” Gascon said.
“Sa kasalukuyan, based on our limited resources, hirap kaming sabayan yung pace and scale ng namamatay. Masyadong mabilis at marami… We also want to give justice to every single case,” he added.
Sought for his reaction, House appropriations committee chairman Davao city Rep. Karlo Nograles denied power-tripping the CHR by deferring deliberations on its budget.
>”Obviously marami pang unresolved issues ang CHR which is why it was deferred. Remember that there are other agencies which have been deferred and not just the CHR. Masyado kaming pinapangunahan ni Chairman Gascon,” Nograles said.
He chided Gascon for being the one “begging” Congress to give the commission a zero budget.
“He is practically begging that Congress give him a P1 budget by spreading those rumors. I would advice that he refrains from doing that. If the House really wanted to give CHR a P1 budget, it would have happened already, just like when ERC was given a P1,000 budget,” Nograles said.
The Department of Budget and Management approved a P649.484 million budget for the CHR, even though the CHR’s proposal was for a P1.723 billion budget (inclusive of retirement and life insurance program) for 2018.
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