Human-rights body needs more funds, lawmakers told
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), which continues to occupy a condemned building and has to make do with a “bare-bones” budget of P500,000 for its witness protection program, has asked the Senate for additional funds in the 2016 national budget.
According to CHR Chair Jose Luis Gascon, cases of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrest continued to increase, even if incidents of human rights violations had gone down compared to the days of martial law.
“That’s why the CHR is asking for more support to be able to address these cases,” Gascon said at the Senate hearing on the CHR budget.
“While overall, cases have dwindled, the fact that there are sharp increases in enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture is a matter of concern,” he said.
Gascon said the agency could use an additional P15 million next year to boost its own witness protection program that shelters those who testify against government and military officials but who are reluctant to be placed under the Department of Justice’s witness protection program.
The P500,000 budget for the CHR’s witness protection program is “grossly inadequate” and not even enough to rent a safe house, said Gascon.
The CHR currently has in its care eight witnesses, but more have applied to be placed under the agency’s protection, he said.
“With the increase in violations, particularly in Mindanao with the lumad, we see [the budget] as being strained, so we’re proposing an increase in the witness protection program budget,” he said at the Senate hearing.
Gascon also asked for P52.27 million in capital outlay to retrofit and rehabilitate its offices at University of the Philippines Diliman.
The building was declared condemned after the 1990 earthquake. It was retrofitted in 1997 when the CHR moved in that year.
Upon learning that the offices were in a condemned building, Sen. Sonny Angara said it was a case of human rights violation.
The proposed CHR budget for 2016 is P428 million, but Gascon also recommended additional funding for its other programs. Leila B. Salaverria
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