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Rody: Use CHR budget for police body cams

A policeman, wearing a mask featuring President Duterte’s face, adjusts his helmet at the Quezon City Police District Station 10 yesterday morning before riding his motorcycle home. MICHAEL VARCAS

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte yesterday suggested using the more than P600-million budget taken away from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to buy body cameras for policemen to address allegations that cops are involved in abusive practices.

“If you do not want to return the budget to the CHR, why don’t you invest the money to buy equipment for the police, for all policemen in the Philippines?” the President said in a speech delivered in Davao City last Saturday.

He said the P600 million is enough for all the body cameras, which are “state-of-the-art and are just as big as clothing buttons” and can be placed on policemen even 24 hours a day.

“Just don’t invade the privacy of the soldiers and the policemen. But you are free to embed and place cameras on the bodies of the law enforcers whenever they go out to operate because the Philippines is a narco-state already,” the President said.

The CHR has been criticizing the spate of killings tied to the Duterte administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

Duterte also claimed that CHR chairman Chito Gascon has politicized the human rights body.

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Duterte is insisting that the CHR has focused too much on the killing of teenagers during police operations for the war on drugs, but ignored other cases of abuse.

But the CHR maintains that law enforcers are the ones mandated to deal with crimes committed by private individuals.

The commission also maintains that it is a watchdog, monitor, and educator of government and is not mandated to act on criminal complaints.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the CHR should consider designating a “neutral” spokesperson to help prevent politics from affecting its work on checking abuses of law enforcement personnel.

Gatchalian said it cannot be helped that Gascon will be suspected of trying to destabilize the Duterte administration as he is one of the leaders of the Liberal Party, the opposition.

Voting 119-32, the House of Representatives dominated by Duterte’s allies gave the CHR a P1,000 budget for next year because of the constitutional body’s supposed failure to protect the human rights of crime victims.

The House’s decision sparked outrage among groups who believe it sends a warning to the critics of Duterte and his bloody war against drugs.

The House also gave the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) a budget of P1,000 each for next year owing to reported corruption and poor performance of their officials.

Caucus to avoid deadlock

Some senators have warned of a possible deadlock in the passage of the P3.7-trillion national budget for next year if the House insists on giving only P1,000 to the CHR, ERC and NCIP.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, said she expects a caucus to be held in the coming weeks to find ways to avert a possible deadlock over the proposed spending outlay for 2018.

Legarda’s committee has restored the budgets of the CHR, ERC and NCIP and the chamber is prepared to defend them in deliberations with House counterparts during the bicameral conference committee meeting on the proposed national budget.

“We will see how we can, the Senate and the House can see eye-to-eye,” she said. - With Paolo Romero

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