Lawmakers seek to increase CHR's funding for 2023 amid proposed cut

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 20 2022 09:42 PM

MANILA — Some lawmakers expressed support to increase the budget of the Commission on Human Rights next year, amid a proposed cut for its allocation under the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

Under the NEP, only P846.38 million is allocated for the CHR next year, which is 12.27 percent lower than its 2022 budget.

The Human Rights Violations Victims' Memorial Commission (HRVVMC), a CHR-attached agency, has a proposed 2023 budget of P31.8 million.

During the House of Representatives plenary debates, CHR's budget sponsor Negros Oriental 1st District Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong said a reduced funding will affect the agency’s major programs that seek to protect against and prevent human rights violations.

From 2021 to 2022, CHR has provided legal aid to 4,500 human rights victims and disbursed some P18 million in assistance funds.

"Granted a larger budget, however, they will be able to expand their work much further. They plan to increase their capacity to investigate human rights violations, widen their work on mental health, and increase the amount of legal and financial aid to victims of human rights abuses," Limkaichong said.

The lawmaker added that with the proposed budget cut, the CHR nay not be able to support its new initiatives, "including its planned human rights institute, and its program on climate change."

"Major cuts can be seen in its expenses for transportation, communication, promotion work and new equipment, expenditure items, which all have a direct impact on all the major programs on protection, prevention, promotion and policy services," Limkaichong noted.

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Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas echoed the call for a higher budget for CHR.

"This representation fully supports the strengthening of the programs of the Commission on Human Rights through the allocation of more funds and resources, especially with the worsening political climate, and spike of human rights abuses in the country," Brosas said.

"The CHR has many pending programs and continues to strive to improve its services. Dapat po pataasin natin ang kanilang budget upang magampanan ang kanilang mandato."

(We need to increase their budget for them to perform their mandate.)

Meantime, funds for a museum that seeks to remember the victims of human rights violations during the martial law period are available in the form of trust receipts, but need a special provision in the 2023 General Appropriations Act for the funds to be released upon the request of HRVVMC, according to Limkaichong.

"As the sponsor of HRVVMC, we definitely support the restoration of the special fund as a special provision under the GAA of 2023. I feel strongly that we must implement what is protected by law, as this is also the essence of our democracy," she said.

"We remain hopeful that this administration will stand by its commitment to ensure a high level of accountability for the human rights issues and violations in the country," said Limkaichong.

She also called for the appointment of new CHR commissioners who possess integrity, honesty, and high moral principles.

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The House of Representatives terminated on Tuesday the period of sponsorship and debate on CHR’s proposed 2023 budget.

The lower chamber also terminated the period of sponsorship and debate on the Commission on Elections' proposed 2023 budget. 

Some lawmakers expressed support to augment the commission’s budget to fund the construction of its own building

The first phase of construction is estimated to cost P2.1 billion.