LAWMAKERS were divided yesterday on the House of Representatives’ decision slashing to P1,000 the budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the call for the agency’s head to resign.
House senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said CHR Chairman Chito Gascon should not succumb to pressure to resign just to restore the P678 million budget of the commission under the 2018 P3.767 trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which is lower than the body’s P749 million budget this year.
“He should not resign and fight it out. The CHR is the last resort of human rights and extrajudicial killings’ victims,” said Atienza as Gascon was accused of alleged failure to fulfill its mandate of protecting the human rights of all Filipinos.
But Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel and House Minority Leader Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said the House of Representatives would only reconsider its decision if Gascon will quit his post.
“If he (Gascon) will resign, he could save the budget of the CHR,” said Pimentel, who chairs the House committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.
“I am willing to ask the [the House majority bloc] to reconsider the P1,000 budget of the CHR if there will be a reorganization,” Suarez told reporters in a press conference.
Since the CHR is a constitutional office, Suarez said Gascon can only be replaced or removed from his post through an impeachment proceeding.
“You cannot fire him because the CHR is a constitutional office,” Suarez added. “But if he will stay there we stand pat on our P1,000...but if he will resign, perhaps we may reconsider our position in giving a P1,000 budget for the Commission.”
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano and Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr., both members of the Magnificent 7 or the so-called genuine opposition, also frowned on the measly budget approved for the CHR.
“The House majority has refused to understand the mandate of the CHR which is explicitly enshrined in our Constitution. Bilang isang dating sundalo, malaki ang naitulong ng CHR upang lalong mapaintindi sa kasundaluhan ang konsepto at kahalagahan ng karapatang-pantao,” said Alejano, a former Marine officer.
“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives has practically condoned widespread violations of human rights in the country today and has lost its power and mandate under the check and balance concept of our democracy,” Alejano added.
Baguilat shared Alejano’s view as he said that removing the CHR’s budget is tantamount to eliminating its mandate to investigate, on its own or on complaint by anyone, all forms of violations involving civil and political rights.
“I implore my colleagues in the Senate to decide on this matter with greater maturity and more responsibility,” said Baguilat.