ON CHR BUDGET CUT VOTING: Ako Bicol: Did they or didn’t they?
By Manly M. Ugalde LEGAZPI CITY --- While they did not actually participate in the voting on who is in favor or not of appropriating only P1,000 as the annual budget of the beleaguered Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for 2018, the 3-man representatives of Ako Bicol Partylist (AKB) maintained that they are opposed to the majority proposal of virtually defunding the CHR because it would be tantamount to abolishing said office, which has been created by the Constitution. A text message received by Bicol Mail wherein in this paper’s issue last week this correspondent reported that Ako Bicol has opposed the majority decision of the House of Representatives allocating the P1,000 budget not only to CHR but also to the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for not doing their jobs as far as the House legislators are concerned, Ako Bicol reiterated that they are against the budget cut and chose not to participate in the proceedings as an expression of their opposition or dissent. Indeed, national news wires and reports from the social media identified only two Bicolano legislators who actually voted ‘No’ to the pro-Administration measure of cutting the CHR budget and those of the two other agencies identified. They are Rep. Edcel Lagman of the 1st District of Albay and Rep. Gabby Bordado of the 3rd District of Camarines Sur. In a radio interview, Lagman said he did not see any of the three Ako Bicol representatives stood up when the House plenary hall asked for those who were voting “No” to the proposal to cut the budget of CHR to P1,000. Ako Bicol later explained that both AKB Reps. Alfredo Garbin and Rep. Rodel Batocabe left the hall when the voting was to be conducted while Rep. Christopher Co was officially absent. They, however, maintained that their absence in the voting was tantamount to “No” vote. In a related development, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda explained he was absent during the voting as he needed to take some rest after defending the budget of some 29 other government agencies. The Bicolano vice chair of the House committee on appropriations, however, expressed optimism that the budgets of the 3 government agencies (CHR, NCIP and ERC) may soon be restored as proposed “because these three offices are vital institutions that require reasonable budget for their operations.”