Issue of September 17, 2017
     
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We agree that the House of Representatives should have a P1,000 budget

We agree that there should only be a P1, 000 budget, not for the Commission on Human Rights, but for the House of Representatives.

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Our Constitution provides that martial law can only be declared in cases of invasion and rebellion, when public safety requires it. Defense Secretary Lorenzana has announced that President Duterte might declare martial law over the entire country next week. Buti pa sila, they know in advance, that there will be an invasion or rebellion next week, to such a degree that public safety all over the country will be endangered.

Anyway, if and when martial law is declared, we share the joy and happiness of the supporters of the President.

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History is replete with lessons demonstrating that the state itself can at times be a threat to the enjoyment of the rights of the people it is supposed to protect. While justice can be “easier” to attain when a private person violates the rights of another private person, the quest for justice becomes extremely difficult when it is the government or agents of the government who violate the rights of the people they are sworn to protect.

That is why violations committed by government itself or agents of the government belong to class of offenses distinct from those committed by private persons. Law students will tell you that this is the “state action doctrine.”

Our people recognized the obvious distinction when they formulated and enshrined the bill of rights in our constitution. These are rights meant to safeguard citizens, not against private citizens, but against government and abuse of government power by its instrumentalities and agents.

And in order to make this more effective, our people by means of the constitution, created a body that shall protect us against “state action,” abuse and oppression. That body is the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

The late Sen. Jose W. Diokno who was the first chair of the CHR wrote about the importance of human rights and said that “Human rights make man human.”

Some morons in Congress however demean us and our human rights. Think that we are only worth P1,000. They have proposed an appropriation of only P1,000 to fund the constitutional protector of human rights – the CHR.

They and their President are not pleased with the performance of the CHR, especially its current chair and our good friend Chito Gascon. Chito apparently has been effective in pointing out how the present government has been remiss in its sworn duty to protect human rights. And because of that posture they are out to destroy him.

By giving a P1,000 budget to the CHR they intend to burn the entire structure only to punish what they consider a “rat.”

A few courageous congressmen have rejected the proposal to give only a P1,000 budget to the CHR.

Baguio Congressman Mark Go made Baguio citizens proud by resisting the temptation to gain pogi points with the power that be. He voted “No” and we salute him for that. It’s a feat other congressional wannabes may not have mustered to courage to duplicate had they been in the same hot seat.

Some other congressmen say they would have also voted “No.” Unfortunately they were caught being absent when the crucial votes were counted. They were somewhere else busy getting sick or something. Bistado!

Among them were representatives ate Vilma Santos, Ronnie Cosalan and Teddy Baguilat. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. After all we need all the support against the assault on our human rights.

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) gave its own response to the developments. The following are excerpts from our statement:

“The FLAG condemns the slashing of the budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The creation of the CHR illustrates how deeply the rights of Filipinos are enshrined in our Constitution. The CHR is responsible for monitoring our government’s compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights, investigating human rights violations, protecting the human rights of Filipinos here and abroad, and providing legal aid to the underprivileged whose human rights have been violated or who need protection. By depriving the CHR of the funds it needs to fulfill its mandate, the 119 representatives who voted to slash the budget have betrayed the Constitution and dishonored the oaths they took to uphold it.

FLAG reminds the legislature that the money it is allocating comes from the Filipino people. It is the duty of Congress to serve the people’s interest, not those of a particular party or politician. The way Congress has allocated our money reflects its priorities, and demonstrates that it is indeed government policy to violate the rights of all Filipinos, by preventing the sole agency tasked with protecting rights from fulfilling its mandate.

FLAG call on the Philippine Senate to abide by the Constitution and truly serve the interest of the people by providing the CHR with sufficient funds. FLAG also calls on the Filipino people to closely monitor the budget process, to ensure that our money is allocated to serve our people’s rights and interests. FLAG urges all Filipinos to speak up every time their interests are not served.”

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