Freeman Opinion ( Leaderboard Top ), pagematch: , sectionmatch: 1

The right to be funded

One thousand pesos. Twenty US dollars. This is what one hundred nineteen Congressmen – obviously allies of President Duterte – approved as the budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for the year 2018.

Thirty-two brave souls voted against the castrated budget. We know that the CHR is critical of the ongoing extrajudicial killings in the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs. We know that Duterte has no love for the CHR, and because he has no love in the CHR, his allies in Congress toe the line. Since Duterte’s allies are in control of Congress, there was no problem approving the measly budget for the CHR, instead of the 678 million pesos that the CHR have requested.

Clearly, the Lower House is humiliating and punishing the CHR, which has been critical of Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs. Congress showed that they were willing to support whatever the president wanted. Duterte himself said “Gascon had it coming,” showing his approval of the move. This administration has seen to it that the CHR, a perceived hindrance to government, must be crushed and destroyed.

Some are saying the fight is far from over. In the Senate, the CHR seems to have more support for its budget. Some senators who are well-known allies of the administration have expressed their opposition to the CHR budget cut, and promised to restore its budget.

Should the Senate approve the original budget of the CHR, both houses of Congress will meet to come up with a compromise. I wonder if it still ends up as a numbers game, or if the pro-administration senators “suddenly change their minds?”

The CHR’s duty is to defend human rights from abuses of the state. It was formed during the Corazon Aquino administration precisely to guard against the abuses committed by police and military during the Martial Law years. The CHR is a constitutionally mandated body. The CHR is not the police. The police go after criminals while the judiciary hears the case, gives a decision and passes sentence if it is guilty. That’s not the CHR’s job. So I do not understand what these congressmen are saying that the CHR does not do their duty to all Filipinos, and only defend or protect criminals. That is absolutely absurd.

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Where does one run to if victims of abuse by those in authority, which seem to be rising? Where do you ask for help and protection, the police? Seriously? Defense Sec. Lorenzana himself has said that the CHR “exists for checks and balances. It has the right to be funded. The existence of the CHR keeps the police and the military cautious of their actions”. Something many in this administration obviously do not want. They do not want anyone looking over their shoulders as the purge goes on, whether one is even guilty or not.

How many Kians, Carls and Reynaldos will just be seen or labeled as statistics, collateral damage, isolated incidents rather than victims, if the CHR ceases to exist?

Such was the climate of the dark Martial Law years. Authoritarian rule, with no one to go against it. If the CHR is practically abolished because of a lack of budget, be afraid. Be very afraid.

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