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Alvarez stands by House decision to give CHR P1,000 budget

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Monday defended the decision of the House of Representatives to give the Commission on Human Rights P1,000 budget. Pantaleon Alvarez/Released

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives stood by its decision to give the Commission on Human Rights a P1,000 budget, according to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, for allegedly failing to fulfill its mandate of protecting the human rights of all Filipinos.

This move has worried the erstwhile ruling party, the Liberal Party, as it feared that giving the CHR zero or P1,000 for its budget would impede its ability to meet its responsibility of protecting people's human rights.

Alvarez blasted the CHR for its alleged silence on cases involving victims and accused it of protecting only the rights of criminals.

If this is the case, the CHR should seek its budget from these lawless elements, according to Alvarez.

"Hindi nila ginagawa yung trabaho nila. Yung mandato nila under the Constitution, hindi nila ginagawa. Ano yun? Para protektahan yung karapatang pantao ng lahat ng tao, hindi lang noong mga kriminal," the speaker said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

The House's budget is still not final as it would still be reconciled with the appropriation coming from the Senate at the Bicameral Conference Committee.

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The CHR disputed the assertion of the House, saying that it has been conducting probes into deaths of other victims especially those belonging to vulnerable sectors and groups protected by special laws such as women and children.

Jacqueline De Guia, the spokesperson for the CHR, said that it was conducting these investigations in an effort to "support and compliment the role of the government through law enforcement."

"It should not, however, be mistaken as law enforcement as we are primarily a monitor also of government," she said in a text message to Philstar.com.

Alvarez, however, doesn't buy this explanation.

"Kapag mayroong mga victims na hindi ano…itong mga victims mismo ng human rights, ayaw nilang magsalita, wala man lang silang programa para doon sa mga biktima. Pero kapag yung rights ng mga kriminal, ay maingay sila," said Alvarez, a staunch ally of  President Rodrigo Duterte whose brutal war on drugs has been criticized by both local and international human rights groups and activists for the mounting number of deaths and abuses in its wake.

When asked if the lack of cooperation from the police and government hindered the CHR's work, Alvarez answered in the negative although he did not offer any explanation or evidence.

"Bakit, hindi ba, noong mayroong na-massacre, mayroon ba silang sinabi? May comment ba sila, mayroon ba silang simpatya man lang, wala," said Alvarez, using the massacre of a family of five in Bulacan months ago as a case in point.

READ: What Duterte gets wrong about the CHR

According to De Guia, the CHR's main function is to protect individuals from abuses committed by the state and government authorities such as the police.

It could also take on cases involving victims who belong to marginalized and vulnerable sectors of society, but it could not assume the duty of protecting all Filipinos as it was limited by constraints on its budget and resources.

The LP appealed to legislators to approve the proposed appropriation for the CHR which is pegged at P678 million, lower than its 2017 budget which was P749 million.

"Any cuts in its budget would undermine the ability of the country’s watchdog to fight a rising tide of killings and other human rights violations," the party said in a statement, noting that the CHR functions as the "conscience of the government" as it protects the rights of citizens from abuses by state authorities.

LP said that a P1,000 budget would severely castrate the powers of the commission.

"We certainly don’t want a state human rights watchdog that can’t bark or can’t bite to defend and fight for the human rights of Filipinos," it said.

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