House of Reps pitch for higher CHR funding during plenary debates

House of Reps pitch for higher CHR funding during plenary debates

QUEZON CITY—Members of the House of Representatives on Monday, 24 September 2018, called for an increase in the budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) during the plenary deliberations, citing the need to strengthen the Commission in the face of rampant human rights violations and blatant marks of impunity in the country.

Makakaapekto ito [reduced budget] sa pagpapalakas at pagpapahusay ng CHR sa pagtupad ng kanyang mandato lalo na sa panahon ngayon na nangangailangan na lalong palakasin ang CHR sa harap ng papalalang sitwasyon ng human rights,” said Representative Antonio L Tinio of ACT Teachers Party-list.

(The reduced budget will affect the strengthening of the CHR in the performance of its mandate especially in the current times when it needs it given the worsening human rights situation.)

The Commission was allotted PhP 689,706 million in the National Expenditure Program for FY 2019. This is only half of the original proposed PhP 1.176 billion budget.

Kung last year nagkilos dito sa Kongreso para hadlangan ang budget ng CHR, siguro kailangan naman bumawi ang Kongresong ito para hanapan ng karagdagang pondo ang CHR,” he added.

(If the Congress moved to block the budget of CHR last year, perhaps the Congress should compensate this year and look for additional funds for CHR.)


Strengthening investigations

While PhP 404,000 may look seemingly small at initial glance, key projects and services would be affected by the reduced budget, Representative Tinio pointed out, especially the Commission’s investigation mandate.

Investigation of human rights violation is a key component of CHR’s human rights protection thrust. It also includes provision of independent forensic services, legal aid, witness protection, and one-time financial assistance among others, in pursuit of cases or in aid of case build-up.

Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” B. Casilao of ANAKPAWIS Party-List shares the same sentiment and expressed concern on the measly budget of CHR given the significant role it plays in the current challenging times.

For his part, Cebu City 1st District Vice Representative Raul del Mar, the budget sponsor of the Commission at the plenary, urged his colleagues to help reinstate the budget to the original proposed amount so that it is proportionate to the work that is required from the Commission.

“[W]e are hopeful that the majority of the members will be helping to reinstate the necessary amount, which will make services and actions of CHR more efficient. There should be a proportionate funding for the work and mission of an agency,” he said.


Relevance of CHR

A better understanding of CHR’s role paved the way for increased support for the Commission. Now, more people understand the crucial role of the Commission as a check-and-balance mechanism and a watchdog against abuses. CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon said that this may be the key factor that helped gain the support of the legislators.

Nakakatuwa at nakakataba ng puso at nagpapasalamat kami sa mga kongresista. Ang daming tumayo at nagsabi na dapat dagdagan pa (We are happy and we feel bolstered. We are grateful to the legislators. Many stood to express the need for increase in our budget),” said CHR Chair Gascon in a media interview after the successful plenary hearing,

The Commission, in return, commits to perform its mandate and duty in its best ability, given the recognition of the role of CHR in upholding the rights and dignity of all. ■