HOUSE appropriations committee chairman and Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said Wednesday night his panel had been cleared to endorse the restoration of the budgets of the Commission on Human Rights, the Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Commission on Indigenous People after the heads of the three offices appealed to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
The breakthrough was achieved after CHR Chairman Jose Luis Gascon, ERC Commissioner Geronimo Sta. Ana and NCIP Chairwoman Leonor Oralde-Quintayo sought the help of House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Appropriations Chairman Karlo Nograles to act as a bridge between them and Speaker Alvarez.
Nograles said that, during the meeting, Gascon agreed that the CHR should extend its investigations beyond human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by state agents to include other groups who were victimizing members of the police, the military and even civilians.
“The Speaker basically told Chairman Gascon that we are not the enemy,” Nograles said.
“The Duterte government is not the enemy. We are one with the CHR in the fight against all forms of human rights violation but they must start looking also at the violations committed by criminals and insurgents.”
Alvarez earlier said a reenacted budget was a possibility if both chambers of Congress would fail to come up with a compromise on the reduced budget of the Commission on Human Rights.
But he said the House will stand by its decision to slash the proposed P678-million budget of the commission to a minuscule amount for allegedly not doing its job.
But Alvarez’s position is contrary to that of many senators who plan to restore the CHR’s budget.
“The issue of restoring the CHR budget will entail a long discussion,” Alvarez said.
“To me, I do not discount the possibility that the House-approved 1,000-peso budget will be increased to a certain amount. But to restore the CHR budget to P678 million, I do not think it will happen.”
But Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Wednesday Congress was unlikely to pass a 1,000-peso budget for the CHR.
“I don’t think it will happen. It’s not likely to happen,” Diokno told reporters when asked if both chambers of Congress would approve the proposed 1,000-peso budget for the beleaguered CHR.
“Legislation is the art of compromise. They have to compromise.”
The House of Representatives, voting 119-32, approved 1-SAGIP party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta’s motion to reduce the proposed 2018 budget of the CHR to P1,000.
Alvarez said he would go for a reenacted budget to prove that the House made the right decision to allocate the CHR a measly budget to cripple its operations.
“This is a serious matter. I will not give way,” Alvarez said.
But if the CHR will operate under the 2017 or reenacted budget, the commission will even have a higher outlay of P725 million. The CHR’s budget for this year is P55 million higher than its proposed budget next year.
Alvarez and several lawmakers have demanded the resignation of all CHR officials, including its chairman Chito Gascon, for their alleged effort to protect the rights of criminals.
Alvarez said Gascon must quit his post “to give the CHR a true direction in accordance with the mandate of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.”
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