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EDITORIAL - Wrong use of budgetary powers by Congress

It is difficult to fault people who suspect that the Commission on Human Rights is allowing itself to be used by the political opposition to undermine the Duterte government because many of the cases it has chosen to devote attention to are indeed cases where the buck ultimately stops at the door of the president. And while it is true that these cases do need CHR attention, they are not the only cases that require attention.

The problem apparently stems from the fact that the CHR appears slow in looking into cases that require attention, many of them cases that never make it to the media. What the CHR appears good at is paying attention to what is controversial in media and that is where it devotes its energies into. If people blame the CHR for being selective, it only has itself to blame.

The CHR might even be accused of being publicity hungry. Many have been the times its head of office would call for a press conference where other officials would simply go about their business in silence and the only time the public knows they are in fact working is when they announce the results. But the CHR is different because it barks first and more often than not the people miss the bite.

Be that as it may, there are many ways of making a-right what is askew at the CHR. Reducing its budget from P678 million to only P1,000 is not one of them. Now a Congress that is dominated by Duterte allies may be itching to put the CHR in its proper place and it sure can do that without having its course of action boomerang and hit it on its face.

Now Congress may be one of the least trusted institutions in government, but prior to snatching away the lollipop from CHR, and as incredible as it may seem, it would appear that CHR might have ranked even lower. Now, there is no certainty in that, of course, in the absence of any new survey. But judging by how people look at CHR and the snide remarks they make about its propensity for selectivity and publicity, it may indeed seem that way.

But by reducing the CHR budget to P1,000 the Congress only succeeded in making itself look puerile and dumb, incapable of asserting its power in a more mature and responsible way, as expected of people who call themselves honorable. If Congress had to do it by the budget, cutting it by half would have been more punishing as CHR would have to work to make ends meet. By giving it a virtually zero budget, which is what P1,000 is, it deprived it of work. No work, no responsibilities. Yes!

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