Callamard on P1,000 budget for CHR: 'It's reprehensible'

UNITED Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard has reacted to the House of Representatives' P1,000 budget allocation for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), calling the move "reprehensible and unconscionable."

In a statement, Callamard, a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's violent drug war, said the P1,000 ($20) budget allocated to CHR for 2018 will clip the agency's power to do its mandate in investigating abuses.

"It cannot deliver on its mandate without an appropriate budget, particularly at a time when it is confronted with allegations of massive human rights violations throughout the country, and including, but not only, in the context of the ill-advised, destructive war on drug," Callamard said.

Callamard added that the move was meant to intimidate the CHR from investigating the government's alleged abuses.

"[This is] part of the Duterte administration's attempt to prevent independent institutions to check its abuses, particularly in the context of the brutal drug war that has claimed the lives of thousands, including dozens of children," she said.

On Tuesday, 119 lawmakers voted in favor of Sagip Partylist Representative Rodante Marcoleta's motion to reduce the CHR's budget from P678 million to P1,000 for allegedly "failing to do its job."

Only 32 lawmakers voted to reject the motion.

Buhay Partylist Representative Lito Atienza during interpellation called Marcoleta's motion "defective."

"'Pag ito po inabolish, wala na po pupuntahan ang bansa 'pagkat ang problema, violations of human rights," Atienza said.

(If this will be abolished, the country has nowhere to go because the problem is violations of human rights)

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, meanwhile, called Marcoleta's proposal "disgraceful and embarrassing" especially for a commission created by the Constitution itself.

Atienza and Lagman were among the 32 who voted to uphold CHR's original budget.

The CHR in a statement called the decision of lawmakers a "whimsical and capricious display of vindictiveness."

Detained Senator Leila De Lima, a former CHR chair, in a statement said the slashing of the rights body's budget is a "clear proof of Duterte's power hungry, morally bankrupt and crooked governance".

The budget approved by the House of Representatives, however, may still be modified at the bicameral conference with the Senate, which is still conducting its own budget proceedings.

Several senators have already pledged their support for CHR, vowing to restore its original proposed budget. (SunStar Philippines)