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Given House’s reasoning, CHR deserves P1 trillion

One thing is worse than the House of Reps’ 119-32 vote to slash the Commission on Human Rights 2018 budget to only P1,000. It’s the pro-administration majority’s reason for doing so. Allegedly, the CHR is too quick to condemn human rights violations by policemen, yet silent when drug addicts or pushers “violate the rights of policemen.” Duh, what else is the CHR supposed to do?

Such reasoning betrays the congressmen’s misconception of it all. There is a CHR precisely to address abuses by persons in authority. The state empowers certain officers – policemen, soldiers, jailers – to enforce the law on citizens. They’re even armed and trained to do so. In turn, they are put under more stringent rules than the rest of society. They cannot just wear anything or live anywhere they want. They are placed under the watch of human rights guardians. That’s borne out of tens of thousands of years of human experience with law, power, and abuse. Thus was the CHR among the first government agencies to rush to the site of the Maguindanao Massacre of 2009, because police and militiamen under the command of government officials committed it.

There is no need for the human rights guardians, in our modern Philippine case the CHR, to watch abuses by criminals. Terrorists, narco-traffickers, even addicts in fits of violence against own relatives act outside the law. The full force of society and government – through policemen, soldiers, jailers – is brought to bear upon the lawless. If they hurt, maim, or kill the law enforcers, all the more the criminals are hunted down. Thus there was no need for the CHR to confront the Maute terrorists who beheaded civilians, looted homes, and burned shops in Marawi. The policemen, soldiers, and jailers already were there to stop them.

Oh but no, the 119 congressmen claim, the Constitution expects the CHR to guard the human rights of every person in the Philippines. And policemen, soldiers, and jailers are persons too. So the CHR must defend their rights too, against neighborhood addicts and street pushers who fight back instead of meekly surrendering.

Following that reasoning, then the 119 should not limit the CHR to only P1,000 for 2018. If they want the CHR to do everything and defend everyone, then they should give the CHR at least P1 trillion. That way, the CHR can deputize the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Corrections, etcetera, against all human rights violators. With P1 trillion, the CHR can then buy pistols, rifles, grenades, missiles, bombs, tanks, fighter aircraft, and warships to go after pushers, terrorists, murderers, rapists, kidnappers, arsonists, rustlers, pirates, and pickpockets – everyone who violates another’s human right to life, liberty, and property.

But things don’t work that way, do they?

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The 119 and their boss in Malacañang growl that it’s all the fault of CHR chairman Chito Gascon that the budget is reduced to P1000. He had it coming, supposedly for criticizing the killings under the administration’s war on drugs.

Why, is there nothing to criticize about it? Have not some policemen been abusing anti-drugs – to the point of using it as cover to kidnap for ransom and kill a Korean retiree in Oct. 2016 – prompting their boss in Malacañang to remark then that they’re “rotten to the core”? Has not the PNP been so opaque about the number of persons killed during purported “legitimate police operations”? Didn’t they angrily dispute last Mar. 2017 the oft-reported 7,000-plus as only exactly 2,615 resisters of arrest (“nanlaban”)? So how come six months later last week, on national television at the Senate, the PNP chief lessened the number of those killed in police raids and buy-busts to only 2,216? Have 399 fatalities been lost in the course of the PNP refusal to give the Senate and the CHR copies of the official police reports on each of the deaths?

Going back to Gascon, if he’s at fault as the House majority and Malacañang claim, then why not confront him? Why in effect abolish the constitutional office CHR by giving it only P1,000? Congress has no authority to erase something that the sovereign people formed.

That’s because Gascon is not a lawyer, and therefore “tanga” (stupid), says the boss in Malacañang. So what does that make of the 119 congressmen, most of whom are not lawyers too? What of the 105 million Filipinos who are mostly not lawyers? Are they as “tanga” as Gascon? The last time a lawyer occupying Malacañang thought everyone else stupid too, he declared one-man rule, murdered and jailed dissenters, and robbed the nation blind.

The country is sliding into that same abyss. But there’s a glimmer of hope – in the Senate. There, a majority of 13 is saying they will restore the full P678 million originally allocated to the CHR for 2018. They vow to stand by it, against the insistence of 119 congressmen on only P1,000. At the helm of the Senate is the president of the PDP-Laban party that spearheaded the fight against the former dictator. The founder of that party was imprisoned too on trumped-up charges – a violation of human rights. Will his son and namesake live up to his legacy?

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