MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is not likely to step in to help increase the budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) from the P1,000 approved by the House of Representatives, a lawmaker said Thursday.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chair of the House justice committee, also asserted that while the CHR is tasked to investigate alleged abuses by state agents, it is also mandated to protect the rights of law enforcers.
"Will you just keep mum about the human rights of the police officers who were standing there trying to protect and not hear anything from the human rights commission," he told ANC's Headstart.
"I think it is part of the mandate, and this is what Congress is making CHR accountable for, because we have the oversight power and we’re just saying ‘Please do your job and you be more universal than what you are now’," he added.
Umali said there were instances in the past when Congress reduced the budget of some agencies to a peso, but "then came the Office of the President to the rescue."
"But in this case, how can you expect the Office of the President to rescue CHR when there is a tiff between the head of CHR and the President or even Congress for that matter?" he said.
President Duterte had said the House version of the CHR budget may be reviewed.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has said the commission would be given a bigger budget if its chairman, Chito Gascon, resigns.
Asked if he also believes Gascon should step down for the CHR to get a bigger budget, Umali said: "Yes, because that is what our leader, Speaker Bebot Alvarez, had suggested, and I think he is respected by the many members of the super majority."
Gascon has been critical of the administration's war on drugs.
"I think in the mind of the many members of Congress, led by the Speaker, I think the problem is the head (Gascon). He said that quite straightforwardly, and I think there are times when pressures can be exerted for a person to do the right thing," he said.
A total of 119 House members on Tuesday favored the P1,000 budget for the constitutionally mandated agency. Gascon described the move as a "whimsical and capricious display of vindictiveness."
Umali said he hopes the lawmakers would be remembered for "doing our job and performing our oversight functions and mandate," and that if reforms are enacted at the agency, they will be credited for it.
With a "butting of heads" expected when the House and the Senate sit down as a bicameral committee to finalize the 2018 budget, Umali said House members would stand their ground on the CHR budget.