MANILA - Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said the House of Representatives' decision to slash the budget of the Commission on Human Rights to only P1,000 adds to the impression that the administration cares very little about human rights.
Hontiveros noted that while President Rodrigo Duterte said the budget may still be reviewed, the Chief Executive also "insulted" CHR Chairman Chito Gascon in the same statement.
"Talagang lalalim yung pakiramdam natin na so ganiyan na lang ka-mura ang tingin ng House sa karapatang pantao natin. Sa gitna ng kaliwa’t kanang patayan, ito pa ang gagawin ng House," she told ANC's Headstart.
"This really adds to the terrible impression na paatras nang paatras yung administrasyon sa ating national and international obligations to protect human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," she said, adding a call to her colleagues to "correct this terrible wrong."
Hontiveros said the Senate and the House of Representatives "will butt heads if necessary" when they sit as a bicameral committee to approve the 2018 budget.
119 lawmakers in the House on Tuesday favored the P1,000 budget for the constitutionally mandated agency. Gascon described the move as a "whimsical and capricious display of vindictiveness."
CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the commission would be given a bigger budget if Gascon resigns. The chair did not step down from the post he is supposed to hold until 2022.
Hontiveros said this demand from Alvarez "adds insult to injury" after the P1,000-budget allocation and does not help the administration's "track record" on human rights.
She said Gascon "can sit [his term] out" but he will be sitting on an "empty [and] powerless chair" with such measly budget for 2018.
"Yun ang hinding hindi dapat at puwedeng payagan dahil all the more now and in the next 5 years, kailangan nating hindi defunded, hindi defanged kundi fully mandated and empowered, funded ang isang Commission on Human Rights," she said.
For his part, Senate finance committee chairman Panfilo Lacson said there is still hope that the CHR will get a bigger budget after his committee approved Monday a P678-million budget for the rights body.
He said the allocation includes a P28.565-million budget for the Human Rights Violations Victim’s Memorial Commission.