Defense chief supports call for sufficient CHR funding
Taking a stand different from that of President Duterte’s allies in the House, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana supported calls to provide the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) with sufficient funds so it could perform its functions.
Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely also defended the CHR, underscoring the indispensable help of “human rights institutions, defenders and nongovernment organizations (NGOs)” to the exploited sectors.
Lorenzana told reporters in the Senate on Thursday that the CHR, being a constitutional body, deserved to be funded. “Because it’s there, it is right that it has to be funded.”
He made the statement after the House of Representatives on Tuesday cut the CHR budget for 2018 to just P1,000 from P678 million for criticizing President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
Asked what the CHR had done for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Lorenzana said it was keeping the police and military cautious about going about their duties as they could be liable for human rights violations.
The AFP has a good relationship with the CHR, as shown by the few human rights violations filed against the military over the past years, according to the defense secretary.
Lorenzana expressed hope that the House would reconsider its move, saying CHR personnel could just be removed from the commission.
In Cebu City, staff of the CHR in Central Visayas (CHR-7) vowed to work harder despite the House decision.
“The most effective kind of protest that we will do is to stay in office and continue to do our mandate,” said CHR-7 chief investigator Leo Villarino.
At a forum on human trafficking, Gorely chided Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II over the administration’s latest attack on the CHR.
Gorely, who was seated beside Aguirre, said there was “always a temptation from the government of all countries to lay siege to these [human rights] institutions at times.”
“But I think we can’t be here talking about the importance of dealing with this situation without acknowledging the role of those institutions and NGOs which support those people in a very hands-on way,” Gorely said, drawing the loudest applause from the audience.
Asked after the panel discussion for his reaction to the envoy’s comment, Aguirre defended the move of Mr. Duterte’s House allies, echoing House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s charge that the CHR was protecting only the rights of criminals.
“You only go to [cases] that you can use against the President before the ICC [International Criminal Court],” he said.
European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines president Guenter Taus said concerns about the political stability of the country, including the substantial downsizing of the 2018 budget for the CHR, were “not sending the right signals” to foreign investors.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the CHR budget controversy was not good for the Duterte administration, going by the uproar it was causing.
Amid the uproar, a social media campaign has been launched for people to give their taxes to the CHR. —WITH REPORTS FROM DJ YAP, LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL
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.