MANILA - Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa on Tuesday backed the Commission on Human Rights' (CHR) proposed P860.50 million budget for 2021, even as he recalled how the agency repeatedly questioned his implementation of the controversial anti-drug operation Oplan Tokhang during his stint as Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.
The CHR had many times called out the PNP, especially in 2016 when Dela Rosa began enforcing President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, which left dead thousands of suspected drug users and peddlers, including minors who allegedly put up violent resistance to police.
"Alam kong sila (CHR) ay very much worried na baka haharangin ko ang kanilang budget pero rest assured... hindi po ako kagaya ng ibang legislators na ginagamit 'yung power of the purse to get even sa kanilang opponents," Dela Rosa said during CHR's budget hearing in the Senate.
(I know they are very much worried that I might block their budget but rest assured... I am not like other legislators who use the power of the purse to get even with their opponents.)
"I am fully supporting your budget. Kung gusto niyo dagdagan 'yan, suporta pa din ako," he said.
In 2017, CHR chair Chito Gascon said Dela Rosa "does not know" the Constitution after the then PNP chief questioned the motive of the human rights agency in inspecting a "secret jail" holding 12 people at a Manila police station.
Last year, a CHR regional official criticized Dela Rosa for downplaying a child's death during a buy-bust operation in Rizal province.
The CHR has repeatedly urged the PNP to heed the United Nations' call to investigate drug-related killings in the Philippines after police offices allegedly refused to bare legitimate data on the government's war on drugs.
"Hindi ako kagaya nung iba na hino-hostage 'yung budget ng government agencies na actively pursuing their allies," Dela Rosa said, without naming any official.
(I am not like others who hold hostage the budget of government agencies that are actively pursuing their allies.)
"I am very happy with your condemnation in public of twin bombings in Jolo. Sana ganun kayo kabilis mag-condemn sa atrocities na ginagawa ng NPA," he said, referring to armed communist group New People's Army.
(I am very happy with your condemnation in public of twin bombings in Jolo. I hope you act as fast in condemning atrocities of the NPA.)
Dela Rosa also asked the CHR about some 175 vacancies in the Commission, saying he wants to find ways for the agency to fill its plantilla positions.
"Sana huwag niyo i-limit 'yung recruitment niyo, baka may unwritten qualifications kayo na dapat 'yung papasok sa CHR hindi pro-government, hindi pro-police," Dela Rosa told the Commission.
(I hope you don't limit your recruitment, perhaps you have unwritten qualifications that those who should enter CHR should not be pro-government or pro-police.)
"Gusto ko kayo tulungan na punuan 'yung inyong plantilla positions para hindi niyo na masabi na kulang kayo sa tao kaya hindi ninyo maimbistigahan 'yung isang human rights violation," he said.
(I want to help you fill your plantilla positions so that you won't say you lack people that's why you couldn't investigate a human rights violation.)
"No political affiliation is considered" in hiring at CHR, Gascon responded.
Explaining the many vacancies, Gascon said it is hard for the CHR to find lawyers and investigators as the agency couldn't match the higher salaries and allowance packages offered in other government agencies, he said.