MANILA - A group of lawyers have launched a fund drive for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) after the House of Representatives approved a P1,000 budget for the agency for 2018.
"We, therefore, appeal to the Filipino people who value human rights and democracy to contribute to a fund to support the operations of the CHR," Artikulo 3, a group of human rights lawyers, said in a statement.
A bank account where contributions may be coursed through is being set up, and there is no minimum amount required for donations, Artikulo 3 president Hilda Clave told ABS-CBN News.
A total of 119 lawmakers on Tuesday voted to cut the CHR's budget to P1,000 from the original proposal of P623.38 million due to the agency's alleged biases against President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
"Kailangan nilang protektahan at pangalagaan ang karapatang pantao ng sinuman, 'di lang isang sektor, 'di lang sa karapatang pantao ng mga kriminal, pati ang innocent victims," House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in an interview on DZMM.
(The CHR has to protect the human rights of everyone, not just one sector, not just the rights of criminals, but also the rights of innocent victims.)
"Kumikibo lang sila kapag against the military, against the police, against government officials. Hindi naman ganun ang mandato nila. Ang mandato nila ay lahat ng karapatang pantao ay protektahan nila at pangalagaan," Alvarez added.
(They just take action when human rights violations are against the military, the police, and government officials. That is not their only mandate. Their mandate is to protect the human rights of everyone.)
But Artikulo 3 said the House of Representatives' move to shrink the CHR's budget "violated the Constitution, which enshrines respect and protection of human rights."
"Speaker Alvarez is taking the country down the road of tyranny, where the Constitution is treated as a mere scrap of paper, independent institutions are shackled, and the people’s right to live in dignity are sacrificed in the name of the ongoing drug war, which has resulted in several extrajudicial killings," the group's statement read.
The CHR is primarily mandated to investigate human rights violations allegedly committed by the police, the military and other state agents.
The budget slash is up for deliberations at the Senate and the bicameral conference committee.
Several lawmakers have vowed to restore the agency's budget.