Alvarez stands pat on P1-K CHR budget amid public uproar

Alvarez stands pat on P1-K CHR budget amid public uproar


MANILA — Amid widespread criticism, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday stood pat on the House of Representatives’ move to cut the 2018 budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to just a measly PHP1,000.

In a radio interview, Alvarez defended the House’s decision as constitutional, invoking the congressional power of the purse as provided by the Constitution to the immediate representatives of the people.

Lawmakers who opposed the funding plan for the CHR said the PHP1,000 budget essentially abolishes the constitutional body and is therefore against the Constitution.

“Hindi naman… dahil binibigyan kami ng Saligang Batas para gawin yun, yun ang isang power ng House of Representatives, in fact, kaya nga nag-uumpisa yung budget sa House of Representatives dahil we are the representatives of the people,” Alvarez said.

(Not really… the Constitution granted that power to the House of Representatives. In fact, the budget process starts in the House of Representatives because we are the representatives of the people.)

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved to reduce the 2018 budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to a meager PHP1,000 from the initial proposal of PHP678 million.

On Tuesday, 119 House members stood in favor of 1-Sagip Partylist Rep. Rodante Marcoleta’s motion to slash CHR’s budget to just PHP1,000, while 32 lawmakers voted against it.

Alvarez shrugged off the social media uproar over the measly CHR budget, saying that the House members are just “doing their jobs” as representatives of the people and are more accountable to their constituents rather than the netizens.

“Kaya nga po representatives of the people. Kami wala kaming pakialam kung mayroong isang grupo diyan na magalit sa amin, ang importante sa amin ginagampanan namin ang trabaho namin bilang representante,” Alvarez said.

(That’s why we’re representatives of the people. We don’t care if there’s a group that opposes us, what is more important for us is that we do our jobs as representatives.)

“Anyway po, ang constituents po namin hindi naman po yung social media, hindi rin po yung media, kundi yung distrito po namin at yung sambayanan,” he added.

(Anyway, our constituents are not those in social media, not the media, but the people in our districts and the country.)

When asked about the possible deadlock between the two chambers of Congress over the CHR budget, Alvarez said the House would not easily yield its power of the purse to the Senate during the bicameral conference.

Several senators, including Senate President Koko Pimentel, said they would fight for the restoration of the PHP678-million budget for the agency as initially proposed by the Department of Budget and Management.

“Ako ginagalang ko ang Senado no, pero hindi po basta yoon ang gusto ng Senado yoon ang masusunod yoon lang po ang masasabi ko diyan,” he said.

(I respect the Senate, but we won’t readily accede to the wish of the Senate.)

The Speaker, however, noted that a compromise may be reached during the bicameral conference to reconcile their differing versions.

Alvarez also reiterated that the House allocated a PHP1,000 budget to the CHR for its failure to perform its mandate to protect the human rights of all Filipinos.

“Malinaw na hindi nila ginagawa o ginagampanan yung tungkulin nila sa taong bayan. Malinaw doon sa kanilang mandato kung talagang nagbabasa sila ng Saligang Batas na kailangan nilang protektahan at pangalagaan ang karapatang pantao ng kahit na sinuman — hindi lang sa isang sector, hindi lang sa karapatang pantao ng mga criminal kundi pati na rin yung mga innocent victims,” he said.

(Clearly, they have not performed their duties to the public. It’s clear in their mandate if they really have read the Constitution, that they need to protect the human rights of every person — not just one sector, not just the human rights of criminals, but also the rights of the innocent victims.)

Alvarez noted that the CHR is mistaken in its notion that its mandate is to check only the human rights abuses committed by the police, military or the other agents of the government.