MANILA- Opposition lawmakers believe the House of Representatives leadership caved to public pressure to restore the budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for 2018 after its vote to slash the agency’s budget to only P1,000 drew backlash.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said public opinion changed the decision of the House leadership on the matter.
"The House leadership felt the overwhelming sentiments from the people and organizations both local and abroad for slashing CHR's budget… The people's representatives heard them and acted accordingly,” Alejano said.
"Given the backlash on the leadership of the House and with the Senate restoring the CHR budget to what was originally proposed, they have to backtrack and restore the CHR's budget due to a strong public clamor,” Villarin said.
Militant Gabriela Party-list and the opposition Liberal Party echoed the two lawmakers, with the latter calling the fund restoration a people's victory.
"The House Committee on Appropriations' statement on the restoration of the budget of the CHR is a response to the huge backlash on the chamber's move to defund the institution amid wanton killings and rights violations,” Gabriela said.
"The restoration of the CHR budget is the people's win. It is a win for human rights, for collective action, and for truth and reason,” the Liberal Party said.
House appropriations committee Chair Rep. Karlo Nograles on Wednesday said the House is set to restore the CHR budget as well as that of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) after the agency heads appealed to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
The CHR originally proposed a budget of P623.38 million for next year, but the House voted last week to slash the funding to P1,000 saying it had failed to perform its mandate.
The budget slash drew widespread criticism, particularly on the virtual defunding of the CHR over the stand of its officials against alleged killings and human rights abuses under the administration's drug war.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat meanwhile congratulated CHR chairperson Chito Gascon “for taking the higher ground” in seeking a dialogue with Alvarez.
"I'm happy for the country that diplomacy and reason prevailed... Congratulations to the many Filipinos who expressed their collective voice that rights of IPs and victims of human rights abuses should be guaranteed by Congress through the power of the purse," he said.
ACTS OFW Rep. John Bertiz, one of the lawmakers who voted to cut the CHR’s budget, reminded the agency to fulfill its mandate.
“Ito pakiusap ko, tutal naibalik ang budget niyo, pagtuunan niyo rin ang mga kababayan sa ibang bansa, lalong-lalo na 'yung mga nakakulong na undocumented," he said.
The CHR is primarily tasked to investigated cases of alleged abuses committed by state agents, including the police and military. -- report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News