Issue of September 17, 2017
     
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Cordillera lawmakers clarify stand on P1,000 CHR budget
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

Some Cordillera lawmakers slammed the House of Representatives’ majority decision to practically abolish the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by giving it P1, 000 budget for 2018 during its Sept. 12 deliberations.

Among the Cordillera lawmakers, Baguio Rep. Mark Go, is the only one listed among the 32 lawmakers whose “no vote” was counted in.

But in a statement, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. said he also objects the move to incapacitate the CHR though his vote was not counted since he was not in the session hall when the call for votes through viva voce (voice vote) was made.

The names of Reps. Joseph Bernos of Abra, Eleanor Begtang of Apayao, Ronald Cosalan of Benguet, and Allen Jesse Mangaoang of Kalinga and appointed caretaker of Mountain Province were not in the list of those who voted for and against the motion of 1-Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta to give CHR a P1,000 budget from the proposed P649.484 million for 2018.

Marcoleta’s motion was reportedly the result of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s making good of his word to render the commission ineffective due to its critical stand on the administration’s war on drugs.

Baguilat, for his part, fears removing CHR’s budget is tantamount to eliminating its mandate to investigate, on its own or on complaint by anyone, all forms of violations involving civil and political rights.

He appealed to the Senate to decide on the matter with greater maturity and more responsibility.

Baguilat said he was present during the roll call for the deliberations, but thinking the voting would happen later, he went to his office to discuss the concerns of his constituents who travelled all the way from Ifugao.

“It’s unforgivable that I failed to ask my staff to prompt me when a crucial matter was taking place on the floor so I could excuse myself from the visitors,” Baguilat said.

He said he grieves with his fellow legislators who stood for the CHR and the fundamental rights of all Filipinos.

“And yes, even the rights of those who voted to lower the CHR’s budget. I deeply apologize to the Filipino people for being unable to cast my vote,” Baguilat said.

He reiterated his support for the CHR and human rights, saying he stands with the CHR and will continue to work toward helping the Commission fulfill its constitutional mandate to protect Filipino citizens from state abuse and the violation of their rights.

Cosalan, in a report, said he also does not support the P1,000 budget for CHR as it sends a wrong signal to the people that human rights is no longer a primordial priority of the government.

He added that it also puts to risk the CHR being subject to political pressure and control.

The Benguet congressman said he was not informed there would be a voting so he was not in the hall when it was held.

Aside from CHR, the House also recently gave P1,000 budgets for 2018 to the Energy Regulatory Commission due to allegations of corruption and to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for its alleged failure to act on the killings of IP leaders in Mindanao.


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