A NUMBER of senators vowed to ensure that the Commission on Human Rights would get a P678 million budget for 2018 and not the P1,000 that the House of Representatives proposed on Tuesday.
Senators who opposed the Lower House’s move are Francis Escudero, Panfilo Lacson, Sonny Angara, Joseph Victor Ejercito Estrada, Benigno Aquino and Francis Pangilinan.
Lacson, who sponsored the CHR’s budget in the Senate, said the rights body is the poor people’s last defense against oppression and abuse. With that, he is accepting the challenge to fight for CHR’s proper funding.
Those who belong to the upper bracket of society, Lacson said, seldom seek the help of CHR since they have resources for defending themselves. But the poor and the helpless need the CHR to defend them.
Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, said while some do not welcome the role of the CHR, “it is still a must that we allow them to do their work and respect them as a body. That is the very essence of democracy.”
Lacson also questioned why, after slashing the CHR’s proposed funding, the House version of the 2018 budget stays at P3.767 trillion. He said it’s interesting to know how the Lower House appropriated the P677.999 million allotted to the CHR.
Should the Senate and the Lower House oppose each other, Lacson said there is no other option but to reconcile through the bicameral conference committee.
“I happen to be the sponsor of the CHR budget in the Senate, along with a few other agencies like the DND, the ARMM, etc. I accept the challenge on this one,” Lacson said.
In his twitter account, Ejercito, a member of the majority the Senate, said he would support the budget for the CHR.
Ejercito said supporting CHR is important since the body serves as the guardian against abuse of those in power and those with authority.
Escudero said he would stand his ground on this matter. “The CHR is a constitutional imperative and a necessity, however inconvenient it may be for some… I will fight to restore its budget,” Escudero said.
Escudero said the CHR is the only agency mandated to protect marginalized and vulnerable sectors in our society against human rights violations.
Pangilinan said that despite the meager amount the CHR is getting, “these people are doing their constitutional duty and fighting for the rights of the people.”
To prove that the body is doing its function, Angara cited the discovery of a secret jail inside station 1 of the Manila Police District last April. The cell, where 12 people were locked up, was allegedly used as holding area for detainees used by police as milking cows.
Aquino said that with the numerous deaths and reports of police abuses, “we need this body to do its duty as mandated by the Constitution.”
“We will fight to restore if not augment, the budget for the Commission on Human Rights,” Aquino said.
The Senate finance committee, which Lacson chairs, recently approved the P678 million budget for the CHR which include a P28.565 million budget for a Human Rights Violation Victim’s Memorial Commission.