MANILA: The Philippine Congress has decided to slash the budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to just 1,000 pesos ($20).
Manila-based human rights organization Hustisya described the move as “paving the road to dictatorship.”
President Rodrigo Duterte denied having anything to do with the budget decision, but said CHR Chairman Chito Gascon, whom he accused of being an ally of the opposition Liberal Party, “had it coming.”
The CHR has been critical of Duterte, who had previously warned he would have it abolished.
A majority of senators have vowed to fight to maintain the 678-million-peso budget, as requested by the CHR, to help it fulfil its mandate under the constitution.
“In the Senate, we won’t make the CHR useless by denying it the money it needs in order to discharge its duty of protecting, preserving and promoting human rights,” said Sen. J.V. Ejercito.
Sen. Bam Aquino said: “The CHR is mandated to safeguard the rights of Filipinos, especially the marginalized and oppressed. It exists as an essential counterbalance to the powers that be. With the numerous deaths and reports of police abuses, we need agencies like the CHR now more than ever.”
Hustisya Chairwoman Evangeline Hernandez said by rendering the CHR irrelevant, “the Duterte government is establishing de facto tyrannical rule, with the people having no recourse to air their grievances before any agency.”
She added: “Many times, we see the CHR as inutile by not acting on the numerous grave human rights violations that we lobby before them. However, what Duterte’s Congress did is the destruction of an institution that acts as a platform to air grievances on violations of people’s rights committed by state security forces.”
“Giving a meager budget to the CHR, while millions are allocated for intelligence funds and the war on drugs, shows the true objective and motive of this regime, that of tyrannical rule. While there’s a rampage of human rights violations under the Duterte regime, martial law in Mindanao, declared all-out war against revolutionary forces and a war on drugs carried out by state forces, the CHR remains important.”