Duterte's congress assigns just $20 to Philippines human rights commission

Policemen knock door to door and interview residents during a drug testing operation in Payatas Quezon City Metro Manila Philippines
Policemen interview residents during a drug-testing operation in Payatas Quezon City Metro Manila Philippines
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13 September, 2017

"All drug killings are subject to investigations", he added.

The cut to the budget of the Commission on Human Rights was supported by a margin of 119 to 32 in Congress.

The rights agency deserved a low budget for being a "useless" body and defending criminals' rights, the speaker of the house of representatives, Pantaleon Alvarez, said in a television interview.

"In the Philippines, I continue to be gravely concerned by the President's open support for a shoot-to-kill policy regarding suspects, as well as by the apparent absence of credible investigations into reports of thousands of extrajudicial killings, and the failure to prosecute any perpetrator", a part of the High Commissioner's opening said.

"I am also shocked by President Duterte's threat to bomb schools for indigenous children in the southern Philippines, which he said were teaching children to rebel against the government", Zeid said.

"You are supposed to investigate all human rights violations irrespective of any group, any location, whether they are soldiers, policemen, NPA, or members of the Maute (terrorist) group", Marcoleta said as quoted by GMA News. "It's that simple. Why should you get budget from the government and yet you are not doing your job?"

In a statement, the Commission on Human Rights said it regretted the decision to "undermine our role as a check-and-balance mechanism" which it said it did "without fear or favour, in a non-partisan manner, and as rightfully mandated by the 1987 constitution".

But critics say the move is punishment for the body's staunch criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte's drugs war.

A year ago the commission received $14.7 million and it had asked for $34 million in 2018.

The budget requires Senate approval before it becomes final - which opponents say is likely, because President Duterte has a majority in the two chambers.

In total, over 3,500 people have been killed since last June in anti-drug operations. The budget drop was proposed in the second meeting of the Congress. They now voted for a huge drop, which will leave the commission with a budget of just $20 for 2018 if approved.

CHR head, Chito Gascon, said the measly budget was an attempt to force his resignation.

"The principal reason why I can not resign my office is that to do so is to weaken the institution itself", Gascon said.

Filipinos, however, are largely supportive of the crackdown as a solution to tackling rampant crime, which Duterte says stems from drug addiction.

This year's budget for the commission was $14.7 million. He said he would take the issue to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Additional reporting from Reuters.


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