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Drilon warns of budget impasse if House insists on P1,000 CHR budget

Sen. Franklin Drilon on Wednesday warned of a budget impasse if the House of Representatives would insist on giving the Commission on Human Rights P1,000 for its budget in 2018. File

MANILA, Philippines — Minority leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday warned that there could be an impasse if the House of Representatives would insist on giving a measly P1,000 budget to the Commission on Human Rights.

On Tuesday, the House, voting 119-32, approved the proposal of Rep. Rodante Marcoleta to provide the CHR a P1,000 budget for 2018.

The House could not also impose any precondition such as the resignation of CHR Chairman Chito Gascon in assessing the body's budget, Drilon said.

"That is not proper. We should not use the budget for things like this. We look at the budget and if there's anything wrong in the budget, let's do something, but I don't think the resignation is part of the CHR's budget," he said, referring to the supposed condition of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that the House would restore the CHR budget if Gascon would agree to step down.

Drilon said that the move by the lower chamber was tantamount to abolishing the CHR, a constitutional body given fiscal autonomy by the Constitution, according to the senator.

"If the house will insist on that, then there will be a deadlock for 2018 general appropriations act," Drilon said, adding that the Senate is willing to have a re-enacted budget for next year should the impasse remains.

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He said that senators in the minority in the Senate would support the move of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the sponsor of the CHR's appropriation in the body, to restore the budget of the government agency.

"The CHR's budget will be maintained by the committee of Senator Lacson, who is in-charge of this, and we will support the proposal of Senator Lacson and the restoration of the budget of the CHR," he said.

In moving for the drastic reduction of the CHR budget, Marcoleta, who last year switched from the minority to the majority in the House, questioned why the body had failed to investigate the abuses committed by militants, rebels and terrorists.

He said that it is the duty of the body to protect the human rights of all Filipinos, echoing the reasoning of Alvarez for supporting the move.

Marcoleta also declared that the CHR should not be given its proposed budget since it was not validly created by Congress because then President Corazon Aquino had lost her revolutionary power to legislate by the time she issued Executive Order 163, which created the constitutional agency.

Rep. Lito Atienza and Rep. Edcel Lagman punched holes in Marcoleta's reasoning.

READ: 'Minuscule, embarrassing, unconstitutional': 32 solons oppose P1,000 CHR budget

Atienza labeled Marcoleta's reasoning as "defective" and insisted that Aquino still had her power to write laws at that time.

Drilon, a former Senate president and justice secretary, warned that the budget could be questioned on constitutional grounds.

"By approving P1,000, in effect, you are abolishing the CHR by removing any power to operate the agency. In effect, you are abolishing the CHR and that can be constitutionally questioned because the CHR is a constitutional body and it is provided for in the Constitution; it has fiscal autonomy," he said, adding that the appropriation would render the CHR incapable of performing its function.

He also defended the CHR, saying that it was only fulfilling its constitutional mandate.

Checks and balances among branches of the government are valid, but abolishing constitutional bodies is not part of it, Drilon said.

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