THE House of Representatives will stand by its decision of giving the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) a budget of P1,000 for 2018.
This is according to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who stressed under the Constitution, the House is vested with the power of the purse and that is why all appropriation measures shall originate exclusively from the Lower Chamber.
In a radio interview, Alvarez said the House would not readily yield its power of the purse to the Senate over the CHR budget.
“Ako iginagalang ko ang Senado pero hindi po basta yun ang gusto ng Senado yun ang masusunod. Yun lang po ang masasabi ko diyan,” Alvarez said.
Just recently, the House approved on second reading the proposed 2018 national budget amounting to P3.767 trillion, including the P1,000 each given to the CHR, Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and National Commission in Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
senators already said they will take steps to restore the proposed budget of the CHR of P649 million.
However, Alvarez hinted a compromise may be reached during the deliberations of the bicameral conference committee to reconcile the different versions of the 2018 budget approved by the House and the Senate.
“Pwede po kaming mag-usap doon. Pero hindi pupwede kung ano yung gusto nila yun ang susundin namin,” he said.
Alvarez explained that the House slapped CHR with a P1000 budget for its failure to perform its mandate to protect the human rights of all Filipinos.
“Malinaw na hindi nila ginagawa o ginagampanan yung tungkulin nila sa taong bayan. Malinaw doon sa kanilang mandato kung talagang nagbabasa sila ng Saligang Batas na kailangan nilang protektahan at pangalagaan ang karapatang pantao ng kahit na sinuman—hindi lang sa isang sektor, hindi lang sa karapatang pantao ng mga kriminal kundi pati na rin yung mga innocent victims,” Alvarez said.
Under Article XIII, Section 18, paragraph 1, the CHR has the power to “Investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights.”
It is also mandated to “provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons within the Philippines, as well as Filipinos residing abroad, and provide for preventive measures and legal aid services to the under-privileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection.”
These constitutional provisions, according to Alvarez, clearly show CHR is mistaken in its notion that its mandate is to check only human rights abuses committed by the police, military or other agents of the government.
Alvarez said that as representatives of the people, the House has the responsibility to hold CHR accountable for not doing its job.
“Ano na ba ang programa nila doon sa mga innocent victims, yung mga na-massacre na pamilya, ano ang programa nila bakit patuloy na nananahimik sila? Maute, Marawi, kumibo ba ang CHR? Wala. Ano ang programa nila? Wala. Paano nila poprotektahan ang mga karapatan nitong mga innocent victims na ito?” Alvarez added.
The Speaker also turned the tables on CHR chairman Chito Gascon who alleged that politics was behind the House decision to give them a P1000 budget.
“Magpakita muna siya ng trabaho niya. Kagaya niyan, sige, itanong ko sa kanya, ano na ba ang nagawa niya doon sa human rights magmula noong Marcos era? May ginawa na ba siya? Sagutin niya. Siya ang namumulitika,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez recalled that during the appropriations committee hearing on CHR’s budget, he personally asked Gascon if CHR is performing its visitation duty in jails to ensure that prisoners’ rights are protected. Alvarez said Gascon admitted he has visited Sen. Leila De Lima in her cell but had not done the same for other prisoners.