Rights groups slam Congress for paltry CHR budget
International human rights groups lambasted the House of Representatives for bestowing a pitiful P1,000-budget to the Commission on Huma Rights (CHR).
In a statement on Wednesday, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) called Congress’ move as “a blow against accountability for human rights violations” in the country.
“While the CHR’s performance as a constitutional body may not have been fully satisfactory to many Filipinos, its mandate is important in combatting human rights abuses,” stressed Philem Kine, HRW deputy Asia director.
Amnesty International Philippines also condemned such action of Congress and called on the Senate to “reject this deliberate attempt” to block the CHR from fulfilling its mandate.
The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, meanwhile, said the approved CHR budget has showed that the Lower House has sunk to “new lows.”
“It is also a warning to institutions providing checks and balance in the government,” said Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary-general. “This latest incident is part of the growing trend of the Duterte government to impose a dictatorship. It has resorted to extrajudicial killings as state policy.”
Outrage also erupted on social media as soon as the P1,000 CHR budget was approved. Netizens called out the 119 representatives that voted in favor of the CHR budget cut.
Over Facebook and Twitter, several posts also slammed the viral photograph that showed lawmakers posing with the trademark clenched fist salute of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Earlier, Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, took to social media to condemn the House majority’s decision.
“Reprehensible and unconscionable,” she said on Twitter, highlighting that the approved budget had a mere equivalent of $20.
“The people of the Philippines deserves a strong independent human rights institution able to monitor, investigate and report on human rights violations, protect victims and their families and hold the powerful to account for their abuses of international human rights and standards,” Callamard also said.
The human rights expert added: “Instead they are getting a ‘war on drugs,’ which, by [President Duterte’s] own account, has failed to curtail addiction rates… If the Philippine Congress is looking for public money being waste, damaging and hurting the Philippine society, this is it.”
The CHR, created under the 1987 Constitution and after the toppling of the Marcos dictatorship, had been receiving a strong backlash under the Duterte administration.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had earlier threatened to completely defund the agency, claiming that it “does not do its job” and that it had always been critical of the administration.
A statement released on Wednesday by the CHR, however, countered Alvarez’s claims.
“We regret that despite continued clarifications on our mandate, they have wrongly perceived our role as combative rather than a collaborative effort to bolster Philippine democracy by ensuring that all public officials are honest in the performance of their duties and adhere to universally accepted principles of human rights,” it said. /kga
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