House restores CHR, ERC, NCIP budgets
The House of Representatives has restored the budgets of the agencies Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), which were earlier defunded with a P1,000 budget.
In a statement on Wednesday, appropriations committee chairperson Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said CHR chair Jose Luis Gascon, ERC Commissioner Geronimo Sta. Ana, and NCIP Chair Leonor Oralde-Quintayo sought his and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas’ help to appeal before Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
In the statement, Nograles said Gascon agreed that the CHR should expand its investigations not only covering human rights violations allegedly committed by state agents, but also those committed by other syndicates victimizing the police, civilians, and the military.
Nograles said Speaker Alvarez told Gascon that the administration is not the enemy.
“The Speaker basically told Chairman Gascon that we are not the enemy. The Duterte government is not the enemy. We are one with the CHR in the fight against all forms of human rights violation but they must start looking also at the violations committed by criminals and insurgents,” Nograles said.
Nograles said the ERC and NCIP also agreed to fix up its job to weed out corruption from its ranks, and to fulfill the mandate of their office.
“The dialogue was very frank but cordial. In the end, the Speaker was magnanimous in his decision and gave the green light to restoring their budget,” Nograles said.
Nograles said the restoration of the budget of the three agencies would be reflected in the third reading approval of the proposed P3.767 trillion national budget for 2018.
The CHR has a proposed 2018 budget of P649.484 million (inclusive of retirement and life insurance program or RLIP).
Meanwhile, the ERC has a proposed P365-million (including RLIP) budget, and the NCIP has a proposed P1.188-billion budget.
When the House approved the budget on second reading, it gave the agencies a measly budget, supposedly because of the alleged partisanship of the CHR in investigating summary killings, the purported corruption in the ranks of the ERC, and the perceived failure of the NCIP to protect ethnic groups.
In a statement, Gascon thanked the House leadership for finding reason in bringing back the CHR budget, vowing to push with the commission’s mandate to protect all forms of human rights.
“CHR welcomes the action taken by both the majority and minority of the House of Representatives to restore its budget,” Gascon said in a text message to the Inquirer. “We are grateful to those who stood firm in championing human rights inside and out the halls of Congress as CHR affirms its commitment to advance All Human Rights for All People.”
“We thank the leadership of the House of Representatives for their open mind and open heart in accepting arguments of reason and necessity to continue to fund CHR’s work,” he added.
In a statement, opposition lawmaker Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat lauded the House leadership for seeing reason in agreeing to return the agencies’ budget.
“I laud Speaker Alvarez, MFL Fariñas and Chair Nograles for their humility and gamesmanship in agreeing to restore the budget,” Baguilat said.
But other vocal critics Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said it was the will of the people that eventually convinced the leadership to return to the CHR its rightful budget, criticizing the leadership for using the budget process as a political tool.
“The will of the people made them backtrack,” Villarin said. “Using the budget as a political weapon against those critical of the administration or to demand submission by heads of agencies to Congress will create gridlocks and will not work for the interest of the people.”
“It was clear that the budget was used as a political tool by allies of Duterte in order to pressure heads of agencies of government especially the CHR to align and cooperate with the agenda of this administration,” Alejano said. “This arm twisting tactic destroys the essence of check and balance system in our democracy.” /je /atm
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