We have so many questions. And cuss words. But let’s do questions.
The House of Representatives recently voted 119-32 to grant the Commission of Human Rights a 2018 budget of only P1000. Yes. Four digits worth of money for a whole Constitutional body. It was House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who claimed that the CHR was not doing its job. He has described the agency’s criticisms of the drug war as “whimsical and a capricious display of vindictiveness.” Big words, petty feelings.
Who are the 119?
The media are still in the middle of trying to identify who exactly are the 119 who voted. For your reference, they’re the ones who rose in favor of the vote here. If you recognize anybody, let us know and give ‘em hell. On a related note: here are the names of 30 of the 32 who opposed. Remember these as names to consider voting for in the future.
Why should I know this?
The CHR was created via the 1987 constitution (recognizing the damage done by the then recently upended Martial Law of the Marcoses) to investigate human rights abuses committed by the state, such as Duterte’s drug war. If there was a time when claims of us living in a fascist state could be considered alarmist, that time has long passed. The beginning and strengthening of dictatorial rule often begins with the dismantling of checks and balances. For Duterte, who has made statements demonizing human rights activists, the CHR may as well be just another casualty.
What happens next?
What’s interesting is, even though HR voted for P1000, the Senate approved of the CHR’s proposed budget of 678 million, which is lower than last year’s budget of 749 million, but still a hell of a lot better than 1000. What happens next is a bicameral committee (bicameral basically meaning, two legislative branches) will decide whether or not the CHR’s budget in the next fiscal year will amount to some college student’s baon for the week. Simply put, not all hope is lost.
What do I do now?
Even though it’s comforting to know that the Constitutional body responsible for protecting our human rights might stand a chance of getting decent funding, it’s clear that a majority of the House is *fist emoji* not on the right side of history. Hold these public servants accountable by calling them up. You can contact them through here.