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Return of CHR budget removes deadlock fears

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Return of CHR budget removes deadlock fears

In this photo, taken March 15, 2016, Sen. Loren Legarda talks about the “The Road to Decarbonization” during the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training. (Photo by RICHARD A. REYES / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Published: 7:21 p.m., Sept. 21, 2017 | Updated: 11:20 p.m., Sept. 21, 2017

The restoration of the proposed budgets of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and two other bodies augurs well for the speedy approval of the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA), Sen. Loren Legarda said on Thursday.

“It’s good news,” Legarda told reporters in the Senate, predicting that the proposed P3.7-trillion national budget for next year would be approved on time or even earlier than December.

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Legarda, who is shepherding the passage of the appropriations bill as chair of the Senate finance committee, said she knew that the House of Representatives would eventually restore the annual budgets of the CHR, Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Congress usually approves the national budget before it goes on recess during the Christmas holidays.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) originally proposed budgets of P350.95 million for the ERC, P1.13 billion for the NCIP and P649.48 million for the CHR, or a total of P2.13 billion.

All three commissions were given a paltry sum of P1,000 each by the House.

‘Face-saving alibi’

But on Wednesday night, the House restored the proposed allocations of the three offices after their heads met with House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

However, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said it was only “a face-saving alibi after the CHR’s budget was restored following terrible backlash against House leaders and [its] supermajority from civil society, netizens and ordinary citizens.”

The House previously cut the budget of the CHR, which has been critical of the administration’s bloody war on drugs, for supposedly failing to investigate rights violations committed by nonstate actors.

But the budget cut sparked public uproar and elicited resistance from almost all of the senators, who vowed to give the human rights agency its due.

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The Senate approved the budgets of the three bodies at the committee level.

In a statement, Lagman expressed disbelief that CHR Chair Chito Gascon had seemingly conceded the point of House leaders that the CHR should not only focus on checking government abuses but also consider the acts of violent nonstate actors as human rights violations, too.

Lagman even doubted that Gascon had committed to investigate the atrocities of nonstate actors like rebels and terrorists.

Lagman said he was certain Gascon “neither promised nor undertook to make such investigations which are not within the jurisdiction of the CHR” in exchange for the restoration of its annual budget.

The House is expected to submit to the Senate its approved budget measure by Sept. 28, according to Legarda.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said it was “good to know that the lower house and the CHR have ironed out their differences.” /pdi /atm

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TAGS: 17th Congress, 2018 national budget, CHR budget cut, Loren Legarda
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