DAVAO CITY, Philippines—A one-thousand peso budget for the Commission on Human Rights will never be passed and if it is passed, the matter will be brought to the Supreme Court, a law firm said Wednesday, September 13.
Reacting to the move of Congress, Atty. Peter Michael Dizon of PM Dizon Law Firm, said the Lower House “cannot just do away with it as it pleases” pointing out that CHR is not just a mere creation of the legislature.
“The reason that its existence is set in stone in the constitution is to ensure that it cannot be legislated away. Congress cannot just completely take away its funding,” Dizon said in a statement.
He said the CHR must be funded by the government as required by the constitution. “Those words are not explicit in the Constitution. You have to read between the lines to see it.”
While he said Congress is obviously adamant to give the CHR a sufficient budget to perform its constitutional mandate to investigate which covers government-perpetuated abuses, Dizon argued that lawmakers knew that their act would be “illegal” had they did not appropriate funds for the agency.
“That’s why they decided to put in P1,000, not zero. But that’s not even enough for the operations of a skeleton crew,” he said.
Dizon is confident that the P1,000 budget of Congress will be rehashed during the bicameral committee since the approved bill from the Lower House will be transmitted to the Senate.
“The P1,000.00 budget is far from final,” he said, noting that President Duterte requested a budget of P678 million pesos for the CHR for 2018 (this year’s budget is P749 million).
Other things that must be factored in, according to Dizon, are the no reduction of salary and benefits, and security of tenure of CHR personnel.
“They will be paid no matter what. Their salaries and benefits cannot be decreased during their tenure. Congress can legislate their salary, but any change in salary would take effect after their tenure,” he said.
The P1,000 budget allotted by lower house will not be enough to pay the CHR personnel, according to Dizon.
“That would make the appropriation unconstitutional. This is basic. It’s not explicit in the law, but it is a basic principle in government,” he added.
Like CHR, other government agencies received a meager budget for 2018 are the Energy Regulatory Board (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). Congress has lowered the three agencies budget because they “poorly” performed their mandate. (davaotoday.com)