CONGRESSMEN in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental yesterday drew flak from citizens’ groups over their failure to join the representatives who voted “no” against giving the Commission on Human Rights a P1-thousand budget for 2018.
Msgr. Perseus Cabunoc, parish priest of the St. Agustine Cathedral and vicar general of the local Roman Catholic archdiocese, called the House vote and the failure of Cagayan de Oro Reps. Rolando Uy and Maximo Rodriguez, and Misamis Oriental Reps. Peter Unabia and Juliette Uy as “insult.”
Cabunoc said it was clear that President Duterte wanted the CHR, a constitutional body, to be crippled and the House vote only showed that congressmen agreed with him.
He said Rodriguez, Unabia and the two Uys were an “insult” to the people they represent, pointing out that citizens needed them to make a stand at the House plenary hall during that crucial moment.
“Kay wala man sila moboto, nagpasabot nga uyon sila sa mga pamaagi ni President Duterte nga dili na hatagan og budget ang CHR aron wala nay motan-aw ang iyang mga pana-agi labi na sa kampanya sa illegal drugs,” Cabunoc said.
Vennel Chenfoo, regional coordinator of the group Kabataan, said the Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental congressmen should have made their stand known when the House voted for the controversial CHR budget.
“Aron madayag unta ang ilang baruganan, kon asa ba sila nag-barug, sa yes vote or no votem,” Chenfoo said.
But he said the failure of the four congressmen to make their votes known only showed that they were willing to turn a blind eye as members of the so-called super majority.
The Lower House also drew flak from international groups such as the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Phelim Kine, HRW deputy Asia director, said the move by the Lower House to appropriate a mere P1 thousand to the CHR for its 2018 budget would deal a blow against accountability for human rights violations in the Philippines.
HRW said that if the Senate concurred with this proposal by the Lower House, Congress would effectively defund the CHR.
Kine said the vote by an overwhelming majority of the Lower House was “part of the Duterte administration’s attempt to prevent independent institutions to check its abuses, particularly in the context of the brutal drug war that has claimed the lives of thousands, including dozens of children.
“While the CHR’s performance as a constitutional body may not have been fully satisfactory to many Filipinos, its mandate is important in combatting human rights abuses. Instead of defunding it, Congress should increase its resources and ensure that it fulfills that mandate.”
In a statement, the Movement Against Tyranny condemned the Lower House for slashing the budget of the CHR.
“If approved, this insulting amount will render the CHR practically abolished, with no funds even for a week’s supply of bond paper,” it said.
The group said the House action sent a clear message that the Duterte administration is intolerant of “even a modicum of accountability for its horrible human rights record, especially its murderous attack on the poor masquerading as a war on crime and illegal drugs.”
It said the “budgetary attack” on the CHR should be taken in the context of martial law in Mindanao, Duterte’s threat to declare a revolutionary government apparently to monopolize power, and ongoing assaults on other institutions and citizens groups that serve as a check and balance to the powerful powers of the President.
It appealed to the Senate to substantially increase the budget of the CHR so that it can function effectively as a watchdog and protector of human rights and civil liberties.
The human rights watchdog Karapatan called members of the House majority members “sycophants… [who] are having a field day in their fascist and anti-people schemes in the past days.”
Karapatan called the House vote as an attempt to clip the functions of a constitutional body mandated to check on the human rights violations of State actors.
“We view the recent attempts of the Duterte administration to de facto abolish the CHR as a dangerous step that undermines available mechanisms for redress for human rights violations in this so-called democratic form of government,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
Karapatan warned: “This move conveniently complements Duterte’s draconian plans to impose a nationwide martial law.”
Gloria Arellano, chairperson of the group Kadamay, said the House vote only confirmed that “the Duterte government hasn’t respected human rights since the beginning.”
Arellano said the Lower House was into “power tripping” and bullying any group of anyone that opposes the Duterte administration’s policies.
She lamented that human rights was receiving so little and yet both demolitions and Oplan Tokhang would be getting gigantic upgrades in the proposed 2018 budget.
For 2018, it said the National Police would get an extra P20 billion for operations while P48 billion has been allotted for the right-of-way item in the public works department budget.
“This is what bullies do and will continue to do. Their twisted minds believe that military operations, violence and tearing down communities [are] better than social services and human rights,” said Arellano. (nitz arancon)