CHR’s P1,000 budget stuns Visayas rights group, Church leaders
Human rights advocates and Church leaders in the Visayas decried the majority vote of the House of Representatives giving P1,000 to the Commission on Human Rights in the 2018 budget.
“It’s plain harassment of the Duterte administration to stop the CHR from monitoring and investigating the massive killings in the anti-drug campaign,” said Reylan Vergara, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan in Panay.
Vergara said the CHR and human rights advocates should resist the harassment of the administration and continue condemning the killings.
A church leader wasted no words in decrying the controversial votation.
“It’s a moronic decision,” said Msgr. Meliton Oso, Jaro Archdiocese social action director.
At least three congressmen from Iloilo voted in favor of giving the Commission on Human Rights P1,000 in the 2018 budget.
These were Representatives Jerry Trenas (lone district, Iloilo City), Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr. (1st district) and Arthur Defensor Jr. (3rd district).
Iloilo Rep. Arcadio Gorriceta (2nd district) said he was not at the session because he is “on leave.”
Rep. Ferjenel Biron of Iloilo’s 4th district said he left the session early for a meeting but said he would have voted to approve a P678-million budget for the CHR.
Iloilo Rep. Raul Tupas of the 5th district said he was unable to vote but supported the majority position.
He said the CHR has become very selective in its investigation and was “focusing only” on high profile cases.
Garin said Trenas confirmed that he voted for the P1,000 for the CHR but declined to comment further.
Garin said his vote was against CHR chair Chito Gascon and not against the entire agency because he was unsatisfied with Gascon’s performance.
Garin said he believes the budget for salaries for the rank and file of the agency will be restored.
Trenas and Garin have joined the ruling PDP-Laban while Defensor along with his father and namesake Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor have announced that they will also join the administration party.
In Negros Occidental, Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon called the decision of the House “utterly shameless”, “revolting” and “really very appalling.”
“We all know the majority of those in the House are there for political survival and they are just too ready to sacrifice any principle to ingratiate themselves to the party,” he said.
But, he said, the move of the House was just “too much” because “we have seen the direction of this government…it is a leadership without any moral compass.”
The House vote “is shameless. I have lost total respect for those who voted for the 1,000 budget to the CHR,” said Buzon.
“They are out to kill the very institution tasked to protect the people, especially the poor who have nothing left except their human rights,” he added.
San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said the 119 congressmen who voted to slash the CHR budget “reveal to us through their approved budget their sense of values and priorities.”
“I ask my kapwa-Pilipino whom they’re representing if we agree with them? Do we share in their sense of values and priorities? Can we accept that the funding for a constitutionally-mandated independent institution like CHR be simply reduced to P1,000?” he said.
“Were they guided by sound principles or mere vindictiveness? What do we do when our leaders can’t take constructive criticism over human rights violations of those mandated to defend our basic human dignity and human rights?” he added.
Alminaza thanked and commended the 32 representatives who went against the political current and voted according to their conscience.
The decision of the House was merely an indication that President Duterte was bent on taking down the checks and balances as he continued its controversial anti-drug war, said Joshua Sagdullas, spokesperson of Bayan-Sinirangan Bisayas based in Eastern Visayas.
“We should expect the worst because this is an indication that the Duterte administration and his supermajority in Congress is bent on taking down all checks and balances over his anti-poor drug war,” he said.
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