Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay lamented that despite its announcement last week that it was restoring the CHR’s outlay, the House cut the commission’s budget from P623.3 million to P508.5 million. File

House OKs budget; CHR gets P500 M
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - September 26, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Voting 223-9, the House of Representatives yesterday approved on third and final reading the proposed P3.8-trillion 2018 budget after cutting funding for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by P115 million.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay lamented that despite its announcement last week that it was restoring the CHR’s outlay, the House cut the commission’s budget from P623.3 million to P508.5 million.

“The House failed to fully restore the CHR budget. The obliterated amount consisted of P47.040 million for human rights protection, P24.441 million for human rights promotion, P33.392 million for human rights policy advisory and P10 million for equipment capital outlay,” he said.

The final P508.5-million funding for the commission “is even lower than its current year budget of P724.9 million.”

“With its slashed budget, the CHR will be hampered in its human rights protection and promotion advocacy and programs,” he said.

Despite the reduction and because of substantial restoration, Lagman voted for approval of the proposed 2018 national outlay.

Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar, who chairs a subcommittee that endorsed the CHR budget, voted for the approval of the 2018 appropriations bill “because the House reconsidered its ridiculous and outrageous decision to give CHR just P1,000.”

On Sept. 12, the House voted to give the CHR, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples P1,000 each for next year.

The decision elicited strong public backlash, particularly against the reduction of the CHR budget, prompting Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles to announce last week that Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had agreed to restore the three commissions’ appropriations.

Earlier, Alvarez demanded the resignation of CHR Chairman Chito Gascon and ERC chief Jose Vicente Salazar.

The other changes in the budget bill were the P40-billion realignments the House made to fund next school year the free college education program in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and locally funded schools accredited by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

Nograles, appropriations committee chairman, said that of the P40 billion, P30 billion came from the school building program of the Department of Education.

He added that funds for school building projects with problems as to the site were realigned to free college education.

An additional P6 billion was taken from the scholarship funds of CHED and SUCs, while P3 billion was rechanneled from appropriations for the Department of Transportation and P1 billion from the Department of Information and Communications Technology, he said.

The other realignments were not available as of press time.

All seven members of the leftist Makabayan bloc voted against the approval of the 2018 budget. They were joined by Reps. Gary Alejano of Magdalo and Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list.

Alejano, whose impeachment complaint against President Duterte was dismissed by the House in May, said he could not support the proposed 2018 outlay as it “patronizes killings and desecrates the rule of law, overlooks inefficiency and incompetence, slowly erodes our democratic processes and effectively neglects the exclusive enjoyment of its citizens over the country’s national wealth by foregoing the government’s obligation of defending its territory.”

Nograles said the bill would now be sent to the Senate and that the House is on track in its schedule of having the budget bill signed into law by the President on Nov. 15.

The Department of Public Works and Highways will receive the biggest funding next year with P640 billion, followed by DepEd’s reduced P583 billion.

The anti-drug war of the Philippine National Police (PNP) was reloaded with P900 million in fresh funds.

Salary hike for cops, soldiers endorsed

Meanwhile, the Duterte administration has come up with a draft Congress Joint Resolution authorizing compensation adjustment for military and uniformed personnel (MUP) entailing an additional budget of P63.4 billion.

The move is in line with the government’s plans on doubling the salaries of soldiers and cops by 2018.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) yesterday said a draft resolution it prepared was concurred with by the Office of the President last Sept. 20.

If signed by both houses of Congress, the resolution will double the base pay of a police officer 1 in the PNP, a private in the Department of National Defense and equivalent ranks in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Public Safety College, Philippine Coast Guard and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority.

The DBM added that a PO 1 will enjoy a 100-percent increase in monthly base pay from the current P14,834 pesos to P29,668. 

Overall, the adjustments will result in a 58.7 percent average increase in base pay for all MUP ranks, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

“The Provisional and Officers’ Allowances will no longer be part of the compensation of MUP as these are granted as an interim measure pending the modification of the base pay schedule,” the DBM said.

DBM estimates showed the increase in the base pay of soldiers, police, firefighters, and jail guards will need an additional cost of P63.4 billion. – With Richmond Mercurio

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