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CHR wants budget doubled next year

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
CHR wants budget doubled next year
A budget briefing of the House appropriations committee last Thursday revealed that the CHR’s budget was already slightly increased from P860.86 million this year to the proposed P867.2 million in 2022.
ICJ / Released

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) wants its budget for next year doubled as the government struggles to source funds for COVID-19 pandemic response programs.

A budget briefing of the House appropriations committee last Thursday revealed that the CHR’s budget was already slightly increased from P860.86 million this year to the proposed P867.2 million in 2022.

But the commission wants to get P1.614 billion in funding for next year or almost double the amount approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

CHR chair Jose Luis Gascon appealed to congressmen to restore their original proposal of P1.614 billion for next year, saying the P747.2 million slashed by the DBM would have a big impact on the commission’s operations.

“With respect to our operations, you will note that the proposal is a reduction of P8.5 million from current levels.

We had actually proposed an increase of P306 million to P424 million next year so that we could do more and do better.

But as it is proposed, there will be a reduction in MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses),” he told congressmen.

The CHR head also lamented the DBM’s deductions on personnel salaries, which went down from the proposed P1.067 billion to P541.9 million in the National Expenditure Program (NEP).?

Aside from hampering CHR’s operations, Gascon warned that the cut in their MOOE would also impact on the payment of lot rental to the University of the Philippines for the commission’s new building.

Gascon said that they hope to pay UP, especially with the free tertiary education law and no tuition being paid, which means UP and other state education institutions would have to rely on other sources of income.

“UP allowed us to build that new building on the understanding that we would be paying a rent on the lot… we need to help our educational institutions with their other forms of generating income,” he stressed.

CHR’s main headquarters sits within the UP Diliman property along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.?Members of the Makabayan bloc supported CHR’s plea for a bigger budget next year.

ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said the performance of CHR should be taken into account, particularly its fulfillment of the mandate to protect the human rights of Filipinos and its efficient use of its 2020 budget.

“I would like to manifest that the proposed budget of the CHR be augmented to their proposed budget, because this is an important institution and agency as it cuts across government agencies and other sectors. And we saw, Mr. Chair, the performance of our Commission on Human Rights during this time when they are needed badly to ensure justice for Filipinos,” she argued in Filipino.?Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago made the same proposal.

“This challenging situation highlights the need for House members to heed the call of CHR to not only restore the MOOE fund, but fully support at least the P154-million request from the commission – actually they should not be requesting because we as lawmakers should have given a guarantee that what they need would be appropriated,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said it has asked for a P6.6-billion budget to support contact tracing efforts in 2022.

DILG spokesman Jonathan Malaya said this is to rehire a total of 25,000 contact tracers for next year.

“We have already requested the House of Representatives for the contact tracing funding next year. Congress has committed to give us the funds,” he said in a text message.

Sen. Nancy Binay has questioned the 2022 budget, which she said lacked measures to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

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