Higher CHR budget needed, House lawmakers agree
MANILA, Philippines — Several lawmakers have called for a higher budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in 2022, noting that the commission plays a vital role as watchdog of possible abuses across various government agencies.
CHR said during the House of Representatives’ committee on appropriations budget briefing on Thursday that the commission initially proposed a P1.614 billion budget for 2022. However, the executive department cut it down to just P867.2 billion.
According to Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Rep. France Castro, the performance of CHR should be taken into account especially as the agency was able to obligate and release most of its allocations for 2020, and because it fulfilled its mandate of upholding human rights.
“I would like to manifest that the proposed budget of the CHR […] be augmented to their proposed budget, (because) napakahalaga pong institusyon, ahensya, itong [CHR], it cuts across lahat ng mga agencies at lahat ng mga sektor,” Castro said before questioning CHR.
(I would like to manifest that the proposed budget of the CHR be augmented to their proposed budget, because this is an important institution and agency as it cuts across government agencies and other sectors.)
“At nakikita natin Mr. Chair, yo’ng performance ng ating Commission on Human Rights sa panahon na talagang kailangan na kailangan ng mga mamamayan natin ang hustisya,” she added.
(And we saw, Mr. Chair, the performance of our Commission on Human Rights during this time when they are needed badly to ensure justice for Filipinos.)
Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago agreed with her fellow Makabayan bloc member in Castro, saying that the House should support moves to restore the proposed Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) funds of CHR, and its whole budget as well.
“This challenging situation highlights the need for House members to heed the call of CHR to not only restore the MOOE fund, but fully support at least P154 million ang hirit from the commission — hindi nga po dapat sila humihirit kun’di dapat tayo na po ang magbigay ng garantiya na hindi lang maibibigay ‘yong kinakailangan nila,” Elago explained.
(This challenging situation highlights the need for House members to heed the call of CHR to not only restore the MOOE fund, but fully support at least the P154 million request from the commission — actually they should not be requesting because we as lawmakers should have given a guarantee that what they need would appropriated.)
During their presentation, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia showed that much of the deductions were done on the personnel salaries, which went down from P1.067 billion to P541.9 million.
All in all, budget deductions totaled to P747.2 million.
While the deductions were high relative to the proposed budget, CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Gascon admitted that their proposed budget for 2022 went higher than the current year. But most of the increases were for personal salaries, noting that their Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) went down.
“In some, or in a big picture, for purposes of the 2022, while the budget appears to be a slight increase of about P6.570 million from the current year, our current budget this year is P860.6 million and the proposed budget submitted by DBM is P867.2 million, but if you look deeper your Honors, that increase is essentially PS (personnel salary), for purposes of the salary adjustments,” he said.
“With respect to our operations your Honor, you will note that the proposal is a reduction of P8.5 million from current levels. We had actually proposed an increase in P306 million to P424 million next year so that we could do more and do better, but as it is proposed, there will be a reduction in MOOE,” he added.
Aside from hampering CHR’s operations, a reduced MOOE would also impact the commission’s payment of lot rental from the University of the Philippines (UP), which was for a new building that CHR constructed.
CHR’s main headquarters sits within the UP Diliman lot in Quezon City, near Commonwealth Avenue.
Gascon said that they hope to pay up UP especially as with the free tertiary education law, no tuition fees are being paid which means UP and other state education institutions would have to rely on other sources of income.
“UP allowed us to build that new building on the understanding that we would be paying a rent on the lot. And as you know, with the universal education at tertiary level, hindi na po nagbabayad ng tuition ang estudyante, kailangan rin po natin tulungan ‘yong ating mga institusyon sa kanilang other forms of generating income,” he added.
(And as you know, with the universal education at tertiary level, students are no longer paying tuition fees, that’s why we need to help our educational institutions with their other forms of generating income.)
Earlier, when the recent killing of National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) vice chair and lawyer Juan Macababbad was discussed at the House hearing, Gascon admitted that budgetary constraints have delayed a quick response to the incident.
Gascon explained that CHR only has regional offices — which means their personnel at the regional office in Koronadal would have to move to Surallah town which luckily is just 30 kilometers away.
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