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House votes to give P1,000 budget to CHR

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved only a P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for 2018.

With a vote of 119 in the affirmative, 32 in the negative, the House approved 1-SAGIP party-list Representative Rodante Marcoleta's motion to reduce the agency's budget from P678 million to P1,000.

During his interpellation, Marcoleta argued that the CHR should have been investigating all human rights violations, regardless of which group an individual belongs to.

"You are supposed to investigate all human rights violations irrespective of any group, any location whether they are soldiers, policemen, NPA, members of the Maute group," Marcoleta said.

"There shouldn't be a selective application. You can condemn but that is not the function of the CHR,"  he added.

Cebu City Representative Raul Del Mar, who sponsors the agency's budget, defended the CHR and said condemning human rights violations is part of their action to investigate abuses.

"They don't only condemn these human rights violations. Condemning is part of their action in investigating human rights violations whether by state authorities or non-state authorities," Del Mar said.

Marcoleta also pointed out that the CHR was "invalidly" created.

He argued that Executive Order (EO) 163, which is the implementing law for the creation of the agency, was issued on May 5, 1987, at that time when the 1987 Constitution has already been ratified and the legislative powers were already not in the hands of then-President Corazon Aquino.

"EO 163, which was issued on May 5, 1987 is invalid because that that time, Mrs. Cory Aquino, the president of the Philippines has already lost her legislative powers," Marcoleta said.

"Mr. Speaker, how can we appropriate budget to an agency which has not been validly created? I move that we assign only a P1,000 budget for the CHR," he added.

Del Mar, Buhay party-list Representative Lito Atienza and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman registered their opposition to Marcoleta's motion.

Atienza argued that if the CHR is essentially abolished for giving it a P1,000 budget, the country will perish.

"Kapag in-abolish ito ngayon, wala nang pupuntahan ang ating bansa," he said.

Instead of providing it with a measly P1,000 budget, Atienza said the House should even give the CHR a budget of P2 billion.

Lagman, for his part, slammed Marcoleta's interpretation of the CHR's function, as he claimed the party-list lawmaker failed to determine that there is a difference between common crimes and human rights violations.

"A human rights violation is an offense committed by the state or agents by the state, not state parties like rebels, terrorists. When they commit crimes, they are sanctionable over the Revised Penal Code," he said.

"The CHR has no jurisdiction over common crimes," he added.

Lagman added that giving the body only a P1,000 budget is "embarrassing and unconstitutional."

"It is the height of irony or fantasy for us to automatically release a minuscule and embarrassing budget of P1,000," he said.

"It is a minuscule, embarrassing and unconstitutional move for us to approve the motion," he added.

Pampanga Representative Juan Pablo Bondoc then moved to vote on Marcoleta's motion via viva voce, where members say "aye" of they are in favor of the motion and "nay" if not.

However, Presiding Speaker Eric Singson later asked members to register their votes by standing up as they could not determine the real winner in the viva voce voting. 

Singson then declared that Marcoleta's motion was approved after 119 members stood up for it.

CHR is the third agency to receive only a P1,000 from the Lower House, after the Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

The proposed budget for the three agencies will still be deliberated in the Senate and in the Bicameral Conference Committee before they are submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for final approval. —JST/BM, GMA News