Senate gave CHR P693.5-M for proposed 2018 budget

The Senate proposed a higher 2018 budget for the Commission on Human Rights, P156.4 million more than the budget allocated for the agency by the House of Representatives.

The Senate submitted a CHR budget for 2018 amounting to P693.5 million, which is higher than the House’s proposal of P537.7 million. The CHR submitted a proposal amounting to P651.9 million.
During the deliberations in the Senate, Senator Panfilo Lacson defended the proposed budget as its sponsor. He was interpellated by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III as he questioned what the CHR did for the victims of the 2013 Zamboanga siege.

“Based on the 2016 budget of the CHR, and based on COA’s recommendation, CHR Regional Office IX in Zamboanga failed to pay on time the financial and community assistance to the victims of human rights violations. This is in contrast to the CHR mandate. May we know the reason for the delay?” Sotto asked.

Lacson said that CHR has already released P5.38 million, as of June 30, 2017, benefiting 1,729 victims.

“So can we safely say that this has not happened in the rest of the country?” Sotto asked again.

Senator Lacson said CHR has pushed for expediting the release of the assistance in Zamboanga and the rest of the country, with the goal of zero backlog in mind by the end of 2017.

Asked about the agency’s 328 vacant positions, Lacson said that the CHR is still hiring personnel to fill 200 items.
As for the unspent P21 million, Lacson said that during the 2017 deliberations for the budget for CHR, he moved to add P100 to the agency’s budget for a CHR building, which could be the reason for the unobligated allotment.

Sotto said that while he still has questions over the figures involving the killings in the country, he would ask them in other Senate hearings. He then moved to have the CHR budget be subject for plenary approval.

“In deference to the chair, the chair and I have something in common, and to the sister of the presiding officer, I terminate my interpellation of the budget of the Commission on Human Rights. I move to submit,” Sotto said.

He was referring to CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, sister of Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

No objection was heard from other Senators.

A bicameral committee would be up next in the deliberation for the 2018 budget after the Senate approves of its own version.

In September, the House even voted for a P1,000 budget for CHR in September, with 119 lawmakers voting for it, while 32 others were against it.

P1,000 budget issues

Among the reactions that went viral during the P1,000 CHR budget issue was that of comedienne Beverly Salviejo, who called the CHR biased and silent during the killings of the farmers protesting in Mendiola during the Cory Aquino administration, the killings of the farmers in Hacienda Luisita, the violent dispersal of the protesting farmers in Kidapawan during Noynoy Aquino’s administration, in contrast to how much they are protesting now over the killings of “criminals” under the Duterte administration.

To this, a GMA News and Public Affairs writer and supervising producer posted a fact-check of all of Salviejo’s criticisms of the CHR.

Jayson Bernard Santos’ fact-checking also went viral with almost 3,500 in shares.

There were also issues surrounding the way the lawmakers voted for or against the P1,000 budget for CHR.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said he was “disappointed” for not being around to vote against the budget slash and apologized to the Filipinos.

Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, through her son Luis Manzano’s Twitter page, said that she was against the budget cut because there is “so much crime/EJK.” However, she was absent during the debates because she was sick.

Iloilo 1st District Rep. Richard Garin said he voted yes due to his dissatisfaction with CHR Chairman Chito Gascon’s performance, although he believed the budget would be “reconsidered and restored” for the salaries of the agency’s employees.

BUHAY Rep. Lito Atienza said that the country’s problem right now include human rights violations, so the CHR deserves more than P600 million, citing P2 billion as a proper budget for the agency to function.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said he was not around during the plenary debates, but was then confident the budget would be restored, calling the CHR one of the “vital institutions.”

Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin said he also skipped the deliberation, but said that he recognized the CHR’s constitutional mandate in protecting human rights.

Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman clarified the issue after speculations as to how she voted on the CHR budget cut, saying that she was absent during the deliberations, but had she been present, she would have “upheld the importance of such a crucial government agency like the CHR.”

Other lawmakers also explained their side on the voting.

After voting for a P1,000 budget for CHR on September 12, the House panel restored the agency’s and that of the Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Commission on Indigenous People on September 20.

Sources: ( , , )

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