TACLOBAN CITY- Indeed the P1,000 budget allocated to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by the House of Representatives sends them quiver.
Aside from weakening their regulatory functions and obligations, the defunding would mean separation from works of some of their employees, said CHR-8 Director Desiree Pontejos.
The Lower House had earlier slashed the proposed budget of the CHR of P678 million to just a measly P1,000.
The defunding by Congress to the CHR was mainly due to the commission, particularly its chair Chito Gascon, strong opposition on the anti-drug war campaign by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The commission claimed that the campaign is not only brutal but has risen to extrajudicial killings, involving even innocent people to include minors and children.
Pontejos said that his immediate fear on the reduction of the budget of their agency next year is possible layoff among its employees.
CHR in the region has about 27 rank and file employees.
It was learned from Pontejos that the CHR in the region operates on a monthly allocation of P300,000 which mostly goes to the personnel services like salaries of the employees.
“The fear is real. Emotionally, there’s a lot of uncertainty, uneasiness and all are worried about losing our jobs. It’s the way how we feel right now,” Pontejos said.
Pontejos added that the budget cut will weaken the agency to the point where it cannot fulfill its mandate and its other functions.
“It is clear that it could mean layoffs or closing the agency or a combination of the two,” he said.
He hopes that the solons would change their minds and initiate for the restoration of their original proposed budget of P678 million for next year.
Meantime, during her visit in Eastern Samar, Vice President Leni Robredo also expressed her sadness over the reduction of the CHR’s budget.
According to Robredo, the functions of the commission could not be undermined as it serves as the watchdog on the excesses and abuses of state agencies on human rights of the civilians.
“Of course we are not happy with the decision of the House (of Representatives). The Commission on Human Rights is a constitutionally-created body and we all know its history why it was created,” she said during an interview Thursday.
She, however, expressed her elation over the strong rebuke by the public on this decision of the Lower House.
Meanwhile, Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento of Samar’s first congressional district, expressed his opposition to this move by his colleagues.
”I am for the welfare of the employees, especially the rank and file employees of the CHR who are struggling to make their voices heard. And to ensure that every employees earns a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work,” Sarmiento said.
“This budget cut would really affect the vulnerable employees of CHR. Where will the commission gets its funding to pay the salaries of its employees. This will only increase hardship and poverty,” the solon said.
Sarmiento was not around when the House of Representatives, by a vote of 119 against 32, gave the CHR a P1,000 funding during their session held on September 12.
(JAZMIN BONIFACIO with reports JOEY A. GABIETA)