Pimentel seeks middle ground on CHR budget
The Senate will work on a “reasonable middle ground” with the House of Representatives over the slashed budgets of three government agencies that would effectively be abolished.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said cutting the 2018 budgets of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to P1,000 may cause more harm than good.
“I understand that our colleagues in the House have their concerns and issues with these agencies, but we have to ask ourselves if the best way to address this is by radically reducing their budgets to the point that they are de facto abolished,” Pimentel said in a statement.
“This may be akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater,” he added.
Pimentel made a distinction between redundant agencies and those that are accused of not fulfilling their mandate but perform important functions.
The Senate President said he agreed with the abolition of the Road Board because its functions can be done by other offices.
“But in the cases of the CHR, ERC and the NCIP, they perform critical tasks,” he said.
“These agencies are supposed to help guarantee the rights of our people: human rights, consumer rights and indigenous peoples’ rights. If these agencies cannot function, who will fulfill their mandates?” he added.
The people must not be made to suffer because of these agencies’ supposed failure to perform their duties, he said.
“If the issue is the mismanagement of the ERC and NCIP, then let us ask their heads to step down and request the President to replace their respective heads with individuals who are clean and competent,” he said.
But Pimentel said a compromise could still be reached during the bicameral conference on the 2018 budget.
“At the end of the day, I believe that reason and compassion will prevail and that the legislature will do what is best for our people,” he said.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez agreed the three agencies could still continue to operate and the House remained open to compromise during the bicameral conference.
But the Senate would be “dreaming” if senators thought they could just get their way, Alvarez said.
“It can’t be that we will just give them what they want. That’s presumptuous of them. We will talk and justify, but we won’t just give it back. They would just be dreaming,” he said.
Although the government’s budget emanates from the House, the Senate also prepares its own version which is reconciled with the original proposal in a bicameral conference committee.
For example, the Senate’s version of the CHR budget for 2018 amounts to P678 million, almost 10 percent lower than the agency’s current funding of P749 million.
Several senators have questioned how congressmen managed to slash the budgets of three agencies without any reduction in the entire government budget.
But the bicameral conference committee could not just “reenact” last year’s budget because budget managers would have to look for the needed funds and delay a new budget law.
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