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Stars kick off CHR fund drive

Actress Agot Isidro, a vocal critic of President Duterte, in her Twitter account lashed out at the 119 representatives who approved the measure on Tuesday. File

Social media: Congressmen should get P1,000 pay

MANILA, Philippines — As protests mounted after the House of Representatives approved a P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights for 2018, social media went abuzz with reactions from local celebrities and ordinary netizens who have initiated a fundraising campaign for the agency.

Actress Agot Isidro, a vocal critic of President Duterte, in her Twitter account lashed out at the 119 representatives who approved the measure on Tuesday.

Isidro initially posted a photo of the House members with a hashtagged caption “#HouseOfRepresentaTHIEVES” in the evening of Sept. 12, the day the CHR budget was approved.

“Glad to know my congressman voted AGAINST #CHRBudget. Tweet na yung mga congressmen na pumabor. Dapat proud kayo, diba? #MagkaalamNa,” a succeeding tweet from Isidro stated.

While he expressed his indignation, Dingdong Dantes lauded the 32 congressmen who voted against the P1,000 budget.

“Buti si Rep. Atienza of Buhay – among many others – voted against it. Ay teka, 32 nga lang pala sila. How in the world can that be alright?” he tweeted.

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Pasig City Councilor Vico Sotto, son of showbiz personalities Vic Sotto and Coney Reyes and a nephew of Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, defended the value of the CHR and asked the congressmen what they wanted to happen to the Philippines.

The young Sotto also made a pledge: “In case this becomes a reality for 2018, I will donate a fixed percent of my monthly salary to the CHR (assuming it’s legal for me to do so).”

“So hindi maa-afford ng #CHR ang magbayad ng kuryente, tubig at internet ng isang buwan. AY. Wala din palang masweswelduhan ni isang staff,” TV host Bianca Gonzalez said on Twitter.

“Sa mga 119 Kongresman, mas matutuwa kami sa inyo kung itinaas niyo ang sahod ng mga mangagawa ng 1000 Pesos,” Jun Sabayton of TV5 posted on Twitter.

Luis Manzano, son of Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, defended his mother from accusations that she was one of the House members who voted for the P1,000 budget for the CHR.

Manzano tweeted her text messages to him, explaining that she was not able to attend the budget deliberation because she was ill. He added that Santos-Recto believes the agency needs ample budget to carry out its mandate.

Indie film director Adolf Alix, who directed the extrajudicial killing-themed movie “Madilim ang Gabi,” is also voluntarily giving financial aid to CHR.

Basic principle ‘yun para mag-survive tayong lahat kasi lahat ng ine-enjoy natin ay dahil sa freedom at dahil sa human rights na meron tayo (It’s a basic principle for us to survive; all that we enjoy today are because of freedom and human rights that we have),” he said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol.

As of Wednesday, netizens have started using #GiveMyTaxToCHR both on Facebook and Twitter to express their support for shelling out money from their pockets to help provide funding for the CHR fund through a “pass the hat” system.

Some also agreed that it is the congressmen who should get P1,000 as their salary instead.

“Isaksak mo sa baga mo yang P1,000 mo. Pass the hat na lang para sa CHR. Saan ba pwede maghulog?” Facebook user Jonathan Liwanes Mayuga posted.

“Pass the hat now! Piso para sa 2018 CHR budget! #aksyonNgTaongBayan,” Rose Tapang Feliciano said.

Group appeals for public fundraising

Earlier, a group of human rights lawyers yesterday appealed to the public to raise funds for the CHR.

Lawyer Hilda Clave, president of the human rights lawyers’ group Artikulo 3, told The STAR that they are calling on the public to extend assistance to the CHR through contribution following the overwhelming support it got from netizens.

“We would also like to take advantage of the interest of the public after the CHR got an overwhelming feedback following the P1,000 budget,” Clave said in a statement.

But she said they still have to meet with its members “while there is still the interest of the public over the issue” and with CHR Chairman Chito Gascon on how the fund drive will be done and who will lead it.  

Clave also criticized Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and the 119 congressmen who voted for P1,000 budget for the CHR on Tuesday, saying that they have violated “the Constitution which enshrines respect and protection of human rights.”

Watchdog slams Duterte

Human rights watchdog Network Against Killings in the Philippines (NAKPhilippines) yesterday slammed the Duterte administration over its supposed concerted efforts to abolish checks and balances in the government.

In a statement, the group said Duterte and his allies in Congress are intensifying their efforts to discredit or incapacitate specific institutions and individuals that can check the administration’s abuses of power.

“The move by Duterte’s allies in Congress to allocate a laughable P1,000 for the 2018 budget of the Commission on Human Rights is just part of what looks like a deliberate and strategic campaign to ensure impunity and absence of accountability for extrajudicial killings,” NAKPhilippines said.

Fuss not about Gascon

For Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the fuss over the reduced CHR budget was not so much about Gascon, but the institution itself.

The House of Representatives, in approving the measly budget, argued that the agency has made it a habit of defending criminals instead of actual human rights victims.

Alvarez even went to the extent of calling for the resignation of Gascon in exchange for the restoration of the P678-million proposed budget for the agency.

Lacson said that the current issue is beyond personalities, but the survival of an agency created by the Constitution.

In a radio interview, Lacson questioned the legality of abolishing the CHR through this act of Congress to remove its budget for 2018 as it is a constitutional commission.

If the CHR is to be abolished, Lacson said that an amendment of the Constitution would have to be done to accomplish this.

Former CHR chair Loretta Rosales lamented an apparent massive ignorance among the public of the nature of the CHR.

“It is a commission that has been set up by the Constitution precisely to protect the rights of the people against (human rights) violations, specifically (those) committed by the state,” Rosales told The STAR in a phone interview.

“When a crime is committed, the one responsible for that is the police, not the CHR,” she added. 

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said that he understood the move of the House to reduce the budget of the CHR, which he attributed to Gascon’s constant criticism of the policies of President Duterte.

Sotto noted that Gascon has gone overboard in his criticisms of the President’s policies, which he said does not look good coming from the head of a government institution.

Businessmen express alarm

Local and foreign businessmen yesterday expressed alarm over the passage in the House of Representatives of the measly P1,000 budget for the CHR. 

“It surely worries everybody as it again sends the wrong signals,” European Chamber of Commerce of Philippines president Guenter Taus said.

“A budget of $20 for the human rights commission, I don’t think we are sending the right signals,” he added.

American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines senior advisor John Forbes declined to comment on his group’s behalf, saying that they would opt to wait until the budget is finalized. 

Fund for free college education

Meanwhile, Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles yesterday said the P2.4-billion total budget of three government agencies slapped with P1,000 budget for 2018 can be utilized to fund Duterte’s program to provide free college education to poor but deserving students. 

“The budget will form part of the pool of funds to finance the free higher educa- tion law,” Nograles, chairman of the com- mittee on appropriations at the House of Representatives, revealed.

He was referring to the total aggregate amount of the CHR (P678 million), the En- ergy Regulatory Commission which has a P650.9-million allocation and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples with its proposed P1.1-billion budget for 2018.

Nograles said the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act would benefit the youth through free tertiary education, a top priority of Duterte’s ad- ministration. – With Elizabeth Marcelo, Marvin Sy, Rainier Allan Ronda, Rich- mond Mercurio, Delon Porcalla

 

 

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