Philippines Commission on Human Rights Needs $15 Million. Lawmakers Offered It $20
The president has railed against the commission in the past.
True to its name, the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines investigates all civil, political, economic, and cultural violations of humans rights.
It was established in 1987 and is made up of a chairperson and four members, who requested a budget of $15,351,356 for 2018.
That money would allow the team to provide legal support and counsel to citizens, educate people on human rights, visit jails and neighborhoods to monitor conditions, provide financial assistance to victims, attend to forensic demands and witness protection as part of investigations, and much more.
If the House of Representatives has its way, however, the commission will see nowhere near that amount.
In fact, the House voted to allocate just $20 to the team for the year, which, if enacted, would essentially abolish the commission, according to The Rappler.
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The Senate will now undergo a round of additional budget deliberations. If there are disagreements with the House, then a joint session will be held to come to a consensus.
It’s possible that the $20 allocation will be rejected by the Senate and the commission will ultimately receive adequate funding. But it’s also possible that the enormous budget cut will go through, especially since the move has the tacit support of the president, according to The Rappler.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, he’s embarked on a violent campaign to eradicate drug use in the country that has left up to 12,000 people dead. Throughout this ongoing war on drugs, backed by martial law in some parts of the country, there have been widespread charges of corruption and humans rights violations, including many instances of extrajudicial killings.
The Commission on Human Rights, along with the United Nations and international NGOs, has repeatedly raised concerns about potential human rights violations and are currently investigating various cases.
In response, Duterte threatened to abolish the commission and vowed to stop investigations of those carrying out his orders.
“Remember this, human rights commission, you address your requests through me because the armed forces is under me and the police are under me,” Duterte said during a press conference for his second state of the union.
Duterte has gone after other critics of his agenda. His most outspoken opponent, Senator Leila De Lima, is now in prison over what she claims are false charges.
Recently, the Philippine’s public has turned more forcefully against the president’s war on drugs, after the murder of a teenager was caught on film and contradicted official accounts, and other high-profile cases of corruption.
“Two days after hundreds of people turned out for the teenager’s funeral, the president again told police they would not be punished for killing suspects who resist arrest,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the head of the UNHCR, in a report.
“This lack of respect for the due process rights of all Filipinos is appalling,” he added.
In such a context, abolishing the one body responsible for upholding human rights could further inflame public sentiment.