Duterte party-mate raises ‘reenactment’ of 2017 CHR budget
Published: 5:10 p.m., Sept. 17, 2017 | Updated: 11:46 p.m., Sept. 17, 2017
Will the impasse in Congress over the budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) result in even more funding for the agency?
Siquijor Rep. Ramon Antonio Vicente “Rav” Rocamora, a member of the PDP-Laban, the party of President Rodrigo Duterte, raised the possibility that a disagreement between the House of Representatives and the Senate might result in the reenactment of the agency’s 2017 budget instead.
Rocamora, who joined the dissenters during the controversial 119-32 vote to defund the CHR on Sept. 12, said an impasse would be likely in the bicameral conference when the two chambers would reconcile their versions of the General Appropriations Act.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said this weekend that he would not yield to the senators.
Rocamora saw a silver lining, however, if ever the House and the Senate should fail to come up with a budget provision for the President’s signature.
“What will happen is the [current year’s] budget will be reenacted,” Rocamora said in an interview with AM radio station DZBB. “If that happens, the CHR’s budget would even be bigger.”
To recall, the Department of Budget and Management originally proposed a P649.49-million budget for the CHR, 13.32 percent lower than the current year’s P749.35-million purse.
On the motion of 1-SAGIP Rep. Rodante Marcoleta on Sept. 12, the House reduced the CHR budget to only P1,000.
Rocamora said failure to approve a reconciled budget law at the bicameral conference might just as well lead to the entire 2017 General Appropriations Act being reenacted for 2018.
The current year’s budget of P3.35 trillion is, of course, smaller than the proposed P3.767 trillion budget for 2018.
He acknowledged that this would be impractical. So he said the reenactment should just be limited to the line item for the CHR.
“It is unclear whether it is just the budget of the CHR which will be reenacted or perhaps the whole GAA,” Rocamora said. “But… you cannot hold captive for the budget a line agency or a commission.”
“The way I look at it, if this goes through an impasse… the budget for CHR will have to be reenacted in itself. It’s back to the 2017 budget for the CHR, which is better for them,” he added.
Rocamora also said “this issue regarding the budget of the CHR is not helping the administration.”
He said that while he felt the President was “sincere in his efforts to make a change… the manner in which he goes about in making the change has become quite questionable.”
He also said that if ever CHR Chairman Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon had shortcomings, it could be addressed by other means, such as filing complaints.
“Don’t hold captive the whole institution, because the institution is mandated by the Constitution,” he said. “We have to protect our rights too. That’s about it.”
Speaking on the same program, Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, gave assurance that Congress would give the CHR a budget, as well as the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Energy Regulatory Commission, whose budgets the House also slashed to P1,000.
“I assure you the agencies will have their budget. . . I can’t assure you that [the approved budget of the three agencies] will be up to the last centavo [that they proposed] but I assure you they will have a budget,” Legarda said. /atm
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