What happened during the voting on CHR’s budget for 2018?
Who were the 119 members of the House of Representatives who voted to give the Commission on Human Rights a budget of P1,000 for 2018?
Critics of the decision may want to know the names of those lawmakers, but the chamber only did a headcount, without recording their names.
As Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas explained it: “There is no such record as voting was by ayes and nays.”
The lawmakers voted on the CHR budget during the period of interpellations before they approved on second reading House Bill No. 6215, the lowers chamber’s version of the General Appropriations Act for 2018.
At this stage, they voted on each amendment viva voce – those in favor saying “aye” and those against saying “nay.”
On the other hand, nominal voting, where names are called out one by one, usually takes place when the bill is approved on third and final reading, which for the budget bill is scheduled for Sept. 21.
Deputy Speaker Eric Singson, who presided over the Tuesday session, declared: “The ayes have it.” But minority congressmen – such as Rep. Lito Atienza of the duly-recognized minority bloc and Rep. Edcel Lagman of the so-called Magnificent Seven bloc – claimed the nays rang louder.
Because of this, the chamber was prompted to hold the vote by having the lawmakers stand up for or against the motion raised by Rep. Rodante Marcoleta of the 1-SAGIP party-list.
Fariñas said the voting was done by standing up because “the nays challenged the ruling of the chair that the ayes had it.”
But Lagman insisted that the nays really had it and that some lawmakers only backtracked during the second round of voting because they would be easier to identify if they had rejected Marcoleta’s motion.
“The majority of the members of the House held their conviction in the anonymity of a voice vote,” Lagman said. “However, when the House was divided by rising, the majority of ‘nays’ dissipated because so many could not hold on to their conviction in the open against the dictates of the supermajority leadership.”
Lagman disputed Marcoleta’s argument that the CHR was invalidated created because it had no enabling law and only took effect when President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 163 during the post-Marcos revolutionary government in 1987.
House plenary staff could only visually identify the following lawmakers as those who rejected Marcoleta’s motion:
- Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-List)
- Rep. Lito Atienza (Buhay party-List)
- Rep. Kaka Bag-ao (Liberal Party, Dinagat Islands)
- Rep. Kit Belmonte (LP, 6th District, Quezon City)
- Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela party-List)
- Rep. Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis party-List)
- Rep. Raul Daza (LP, 1st District, Northern Samar)
- Rep. Emmi de Jesus (Gabriela party-list)
- Rep. Raul del Mar (LP, 1st District, Cebu City)
- Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan party-list)
- Rep. Lawrence Fortun (Nacionalista Party, 1st District, Agusan del Norte)
- Rep. Edcel Lagman (LP, 1st District, Albay)
- Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong (LP, 1st District, Negros Oriental)
- Rep. Bai Sandra Sema (PDP-Laban, 1st District, Magundanao)
- Rep. Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers party-list)
- Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list)
In a public Facebook post, legislative officer Jeff Crisostomo identified the following as the other opponents of the motion:
- Rep. Bolet Banal (LP, 3rd District, Quezon City)
- Rep. Emmanuel Billones (LP, 1st District, Capiz)
- Rep. Gabriel Bordado (LP, 3rd District, Camarines Sur)
- Rep. Wilfredo Caminero (PDP-Laban, 2nd District, Cebu)
- Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list)
- Rep. Bayani Fernando (PDP-Laban, 1st District, Marikina)
- Rep. Mark Go (NP, Lone District, Baguio City)
- Rep. Evelyn Mellana (NUP, 2nd District, Agusan del Sur)
- Rep. Rosenda Ann Ocampo (PDP-Laban, 6th District, Manila)
- Rep. Aileen Radaza (PDP-Laban, Lone District, Lapu-Lapu City)
- Rep. Rav Rocamora (PDP-Laban, Lone District, Siquijor)
- Rep. Rosanna Vergara (NPC, 3rd District, Nueva Ecija)
- Rep. Tomasito Villarin (AKBAYAN party-list)
- Rep. Manuel Zubiri (Bukidnon Paglaum Party, 3rd District, Bukidnon).
At least three lawmakers expressed regret that they could not attend the Tuesday session and add to the dissent.
In a Twitter post, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said: “Disappointed we gave CHR a 1K budget. Disappointed in myself I was not around to vote against d cut. I apologize 2 d Filipinos.”
And Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon said: “Wasn’t present anymore when the CHR budget was voted on… I would have voted against the motion.”
In a Twitter post, actor Luis Manzano said that his celebrity mother, Lipa City Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, was sick on the day of voting.
Manzano showed a screencap of what seemed to be a text message from his mother: “Am against cutting the budget of CHR. They have a duty to perform as mandated by Constitution. With so much crimes/EJKs [extrajudicial killings], they need more resources to these investigations.”
Meanwhile, Vice-President Leni Robredo said she was “disappointed and alarmed” about the development because it “effectively dismantles the CHR.”
“This portends the lack of respect for the Constitution and human rights – both of which threatens democracy,” she said.
“The CHR was established under our current Constitution because of the country’s horrific experience under the Marcos dictatorship, where the violation of human rights had been widespread,” she noted. “The existence of CHR is one of the important defenses against the return of the abusive regime in our country. It is the foundation for the dignity and rights of every Filipino.”
As of this posting, the appropriations committee has yet to explain how the budgets meant for the CHR and two other defunded agencies – the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) – would be spent.
The original 2018 budget proposed by the Department of Budget and Management was P649.48 million for the CHR, P350.9 million for ERC, and P1.13 billion for NCIP.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.