Lagman urges House to restore CHR budget
Will the House of Representatives let Senate hog the glory by restoring the scuttled budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)?
This was the point raised by Albay 1st Dist. Rep. Edcel Lagman, as he urged the “small committee” in a letter to restore the CHR’s P649.48-million budget in its amendments to the House version of the 2018 General Appropriations Act.
The small committee was a seven-member panel convened to accept individual amendments and finalize the draft of the budget bill.
“If the ‘small committee’ would restore the budget of the CHR, the Senate would be denied credit for reinstating the said budget,” read the one-page letter addressed to appropriations committee chair Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles.
The budget was already approved on second reading on Sept. 12, the same day when the House adopted in a 119-32 vote the motion of 1-Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta to gut the agency mandated to protect citizens’ human rights and check the abuses of authorities.
Lagman stressed: “the approval… on second reading is subject to the amendments to be introduced by the ‘small committee’ which shall include the restoration of the reduced budgets of some agencies.”
Several senators have vowed to fight for the CHR’s budget, in response to public outcry to the House’s move.
Lagman earlier warned of a “deadlock” between the two Houses of Congress tasked to approve the national government appropriation for next year.
Lagman also wrote separate letters to the 32 lawmakers who voted against the P1,000 budget to the CHR, which raked in a social media backlash against the 119 lawmakers who voted to defund the CHR.
“I earnestly congratulate Your Honor for your conscientious and courageous advocacy against the downgrading of the annual appropriations of the CHR to a measly amount of P1,000,” Lagman said.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in a Sept. 14 radio interview, however, vowed the House “can’t always yield to whatever they want” and said the chambers would have to fight it out at the bicameral conference.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate of the newly independent Makabayan bloc on Sept. 15 also urged Nograles to defund the government’s brutal antidrug campaign in light of the thousands of killings and human-rights violations.
Instead, he proposed that the slashed budgets of public hospitals and drug rehabilitation programs be restored.
Nograles said on Sept. 14 that the budgets of the CHR and two other defunded agencies, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), would be diverted to the funding of free college tuition under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
The Department of Budget and Management originally proposed budgets of P350.95 million for the ERC, P1.13 billion for the NCIP, and P649.48 million for the CHR, of a total of P2.13 billion. /jpv