MANILA - A 1,000-peso budget essentially abolishes the Commission on Human Rights and boosts efforts to hold President Rodrigo Duterte accountable before the International Criminal Court (ICC) over widespread drug-related killings under his watch, a law expert said Wednesday.
The Hague-based court is looking into the complaint filed earlier this year against Duterte, which sought an end to the "dark, obscene, murderous and evil era in the Philippines."
But the ICC functions under the principle of complementarity, stepping in only if a state is unwilling or unable to prosecute an official for serious crimes.
"I think yesterday we moved nearer to that," lawyer Tony La Viña, former dean of the Ateneo School of Government, told ABS-CBN News, referring to the budget cut.
"It's really shameful, it's very embarrassing what the congressmen did here, to be honest."
The CHR can still have its proposed budget of P650 million approved later in the budget process, he said.
ABUSE OF POWER
But in the meantime, he said the ICC "is going to assume" the human rights body would be left with P1,000, which would be "tantamount to abolishing it."
La Viña said the budget cut would make the ICC complaint against Duterte "stronger because one of the things that can stop a case is if there's a chance that you can hold people accountable in your country with your domestic mechanisms."
"Removing the CHR removed one of those mechanisms," he said.
La Viña said congressmen reduced the agency's budget as a "sign of displeasure" with its chairman, Chito Gascon, who had been vocal against the rampant killings under Duterte.
"This is about abuse of power. This is about saying I don't care. I have the power. We have the power. That's what makes it so frustrating," La Viña said.
"The message is very very clear. We don't care about human rights. You're just an obstacle to the political goals of the administration."