EDITORIAL: Killing the CHR

The 119 members of the House of Representatives have just virtually ‘killed’ the Commission on Human Rights.

By practically ‘toeing the line’ of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the House of Representatives is handing a measly P1,000 budget to the CHR for 2018. By any stretch of imagination, no office, let alone a constitutional body like the CHR, can operate on such budget. No way.

For 2018, CHR was seeking a budget of P649.48 million (including retirement and pensions), which was P100 million lower than its 2017 budget.

It got a thousand pesos instead.

The budget was sealed by nominal voting where 119 House members approved the motion of 1-Sagip partylist Representative Rodante Marcoleta to give the CHR a measly P1,000 appropriations.

The reason given for the budget slash according to its propnent was that the rights body failed to act on violations committed by extremist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group.

Why it happened to a constitutional body can be rooted to its raising howl on the alleged extra-judicial killings linked to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, while apparently keeping mum on innocent civilians victimized by the criminals.

Created under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the CHR is mandated to conduct investigations on human rights violations against marginalized and vulnerable sectors of the society, involving civil and political rights.

The slashing of the budget to this proportion will definitely immobilize the CHR unless the people under it works pro bono and they spend their own money for the office’s operations. However, there could be a backlash from the international comunity again who will view this as another blow to the promotion and protection of human rights.

The administration can expect a howl of protest again as the human rights villain and CHR could be hailed as the victim of another political maneuvering.

On the other hand, those who dened CHR of its budget wish lean on the apparent lack of attention by CHR to human rights violations outside its primary sphere of authority. Human rights violations are not the sole franchise of public officials, the police and the military. The violator can be a private individual or group. Most of the time, they fall on the latter especially the extremists. Who will run after them if the CHR won’t?

With CHR sticking to its mandate strictly by the letter, there apparently will be an imbalance somewhere. And this is where the trouble starts.