Move on, human rights
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - September 25, 2017 - 4:00pm

There are many seemingly extra-terrestrially inspired developments in our political-social landscape these days. But none could be more laughable than the House of Representatives’ slashing of the Commission on Human Rights’ 2017 P678 million budget to P1,000 for 2018. I nearly fell off my seat upon reading about what seemed like a joke. Truth to tell, it was not just funny, it was a shameful, vindictive act that hacked the constitutionally created body to smithereens. The thinking public’s perception is that the intention was to abolish the commission, thereby quelling criticisms of actions of the present leadership.

It wasn’t only the CHR that was given the P1,000 crumbs, but also two other agencies, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), whose 2017 budget is P365 million, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), whose 2017 budget is P1.2 billion. These three have been branded as not doing their jobs.

Reactions of support for CHR to continue its work came quickly. Using #GiveMyTaxToCHR on Facebook and Twitter, netizens began initiating a fund drive for the CHR. Similar moves were being taken by lawyers’ groups, human rights organizations, media people and celebrities from the movie and entertainment world.

Presumably, the public outcry over the cruel budget slashing resulted in the legislators’ change of heart. Rep. Karlo Nograles, appropriations committee chair, announced that the panel has been given the approval to endorse the restoration of the budgets of the three agencies after they met with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez through the intercession of House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas. Nograles said the restoration of the three budgets would be incorporated in the final version of House Bill 6215, or the General Appropriations Bill.

President Duterte has accused HRC chair Chito Gascon of politicizing the commission instead of addressing important issues besetting the country. Speaker Alvarez, believed to be behind the slashing of CHR’s budget, has criticized the agency’s not doing its job but focusing on the so-called extra-judicial killings.

The CHR attracted wide public support because of its highly critical pronouncements against the spate of drug-related killings that have alarmed even international human rights groups. There are also concerns that the agency should continue exercising its constitutional mandate of protecting the people from abuses of state agencies, particularly the police and the military.

The beggarly amount is supposed to convey the congressmen’s displeasure over the CHR’s alleged partiality in excoriating only policemen, and for its purported failure to denounce killings, rapes and other serious crimes committed by drug addicts and lawless elements. By whatever measure however, the pervading perception is that this was a wrong move on the issue of human rights.

Gascon is grateful for the House’s restoring his agency’s original budget, but insists that the commission has not been involved in any partisan activity. Gascon is caught between a rock and a hard place, and how he will guide the commission through its 1987 constitutional mandate of investigating human rights violations will be evident in the coming days.

The growing public call to create a fund for the CHR has provided the impetus for Sen. Bam Aquino to push for the approval of a bill directing the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to establish the mechanism by which the taxpayer could allocate 5 percent of his income tax due to his chosen beneficiary. But should the taxpayer not decide to make the donation, Senator Bam said the entire tax goes to the government’s general fund.

Now, this couldn’t have been coincidental since it happened more than a year ago, but the proposed bill would allow individual taxpayers to allocate five percent of their tax payments to entities of their choice was actually filed in the Senate in July last year.

The taxpayer is given the option to send the amount either to 1) a charity or a civil society organization; 2) a priority development project of a local government unit as identified in its Local Poverty Reduction Action Plans or to a national government agency as identified in the Philippine Development Plan; and 3) a legitimate political party which may be national, regional or sectoral parties, organizations or coalitions.

The charitable institutions and NGOs may include foundations, civic groups, cooperatives, microfinance institutions and social enterprises but they must be duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) or some formal accrediting bodies.

Senate Bill 699 (or the People’s Fund Act), according to Senator Aquino, is one way of encouraging greater public involvement in governance and the budget process.

The bill provides that such contributions received by beneficiary organizations or government priority projects shall be exempt from donor’s tax or any other taxes.

While Senator Aquino may not have foreseen the miserly manner by which the annual budget of the CHR or any other government agency could be treated, his bill provides a timely mechanism for concerned citizens to create a temporary fund for besieged agencies, at least for the interim. In any case, he has also announced that, together with other senators, he would push for a realistic budget for the CHR.

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Bangus Specialty Restaurant, a restaurant specializing in traditional Filipino cuisine, is celebrating its 35th year as a favorite go-to-places of families, barkadas and OFWs craving for Filipino food.

The restaurant was conceived by the De Mesa sisters of Guagua, Pampanga – of the Takayama Garden Restaurant and Ima Restaurant fame – who desired to pursue and promote Filipino food, through Bangus Specialty Restaurant, as not one Filipino will tire of eating Filipino food nor a foreigner not want to discover the taste of the Philippines.

There are two Bangus Specialty Restaurants one can go to for the traditional dishes the De Mesa sisters have spent their creative energies on. One is  located at the ground floor of the Connecticut Carpark Building, Greenhills Shopping Center, and the other at the ground floor of North Parking Building, SM Mall of Asia.

Popular dishes that continue to die-for are their Bangus Prime-Cut (Belly) Sinigang, Bangus Molo Soup, Kare-kareng Bangus, Lumpiang Bangus, Bangus Sisig, Bangus ala Pobre, Pinalutong na Bangus at Ensaladang Mangga. They are also known for their non-bangus dishes – Rellenong Manok, Kare-kareng Buntot ng Baka, Hipon sa Aligi, Sisig and Crispy Pata (one of their most popular dishes and voted among the Top Ten Crispy Pata by

A recent offering is the Inihaw sa Bilao, a meal good for three to four people, that consists of assorted grilled dishes. For guests who cannot decide on what to order, they may partake of the Lambingan sa Bangka, Kaing Yaman and Kaing Grande – set meals good for from two to 10 people. And they may have these to-go in Bangus Restaurant’s Bento Bilao.

For dessert, one can choose from Piniritong Leche Flan with Dayap dip, the Turong Ginataan, the Mestisong Halo-halo, the Guinomis and the delicately creamy Tibok-tibok.

On its 35th year, the restaurant is giving 35 percent off on their Dishes of the Month. Each dish has been revealed on the first  of the month, starting July up to October 2017.

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