Bicol solons nix P1K budget for CHR
By Manly M. Ugalde LEGAZPI CITY --- Ako Bicol Partylist, a known ally of the Duterte administration, strongly opposed the P1,000 budget approved by the majority members of the House of Representatives for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), saying that such move is tantamount to abolition of the country’s human rights office. The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the proposed P3.8 Trillion 2018 national budget that also seeks to abolish CHR, Energy Regulatory Commission, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. Rep. Alfredo Garbin said the Ako Bicol 3-member partylist in the House of Representatives is going against the majority decision because the CHR is a body created by the Constitution that is mandated to check human rights violations. ERC and NCIP were also allocated their P1,000 annual budget each, virtually making them paralyzed and dead wood for good. CHR was created during the time of President Corazon Aquino in view of the rampant human rights abuses by the military and police during the Marcos regime, said Rep. Edcel Lagman of the 1st dirtcit of Albay, along with other Bicolano lawmakers, such as Gabriel H. Bordado of the 3rd district of Camarines Sur. Lagman said the move in the lower house to strip CHR of its appropriate budget for next year under the Duterte administration is a glaring act of vindictiveness by the administration which has been accused by human rights advocates of rampant human rights violations, particularly with the alleged extra-judicial killings of suspected illegal drugs users and peddlers, including minors. “We need the CHR as a watchdog against human abuses”, said Lagman in a radio interview here yesterday (Sept. 13). Garbin also granted interview in a separate radio station where the two Bicol lawmakers assailed efforts to stifle human rights protection. A consistent vocal critics of the administration, Lagman is among the few in Bicol who refused to join the bandwagon of President Duterte. Bicol is noted for its band of political turncoats every time there is change in the national leadership. Political observers said that while many known politicians in the region stay with their own identified political affiliations, many of them, too, easily extend collaboration for convenience with the new administration, some of them earning the dubious moniker as ‘political survivors.’ Only a month ago, close to 200 local politicians joined the ruling PDP Laban Party, throwing into the window their old political parties and loyalties. A total of 119 lawmakers identified with the so-called super majority (consisting of various political parties) in the lower house voted to grant the P1,000 budget for the CHR, while 32 lawmakers who voted ‘No’ to the budget meant to humiliate and insult those working in the CHR, including its commissioners and ordinary employees. According to Garbin, many lawmakers identified with the administration did not participate in the voting which he said indicated a strong protest against the token budget allocated for the CHR. But Lagman believe that the move by congressman to strip CHR of its 2018 annual budget will not prosper in the Senate. He said the P1,000 budget simply indicates the administration’s intense effort to paralyze CHR from checking the unending human rights violations and running after the violators.