Defunding CHR Shows How Little the Duterte Admin Value Human Rights
Whilst condemnation of war on drugs and spate of extra judicial killings heightens day by day, the House of Representative on September 12, defunded the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and gave it a measly Php1,000 (US$20) for 2018.
The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) sees it as both bizarre and telling how the Duterte administration values human rights, if indeed it sees a value in it, looking at the way this country is governed. Its allies in Congress has completely ignored the fact that its hatred of CHR Chair Chito Gascon is unacceptable ground for attacking an institution tasked to specifically check on the state human rights violations and to ensure that human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled by the state. The establishment of CHR after Martial Law is a reminder to the government that violations committed by the Marcos dictatorship must not be repeated.
CTUHR however, underscores that CHR had in many times, even when it was much needed, failed to fulfill its mandate. The CHR was silent and kept a blind eye amidst numerous state-perpetrated violations – from violent and bloody strike dispersals to extrajudicial killings in the past, even when all evidence speak clearly against alleged perpetrators. It chose to speak out when it was politically convenient for some or most of those in the Commission. Even at present when peasants, Lumads, workers and other human rights defenders were killed, it was silent until the war on drugs. As Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said (and published), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the CHR have a good relationship, shown by the few human rights violations filed against the military. This plain but weighty reason has discouraged victims, even lost their faith in the CHR.
“But the naked attacks and use of public funds by administration allies in Congress, in an attempt to silence or even destroy an institution mandated to uphold and protect human rights violations is very wrong and tyrannical. It’s such a shame that we continue to have lawmakers who cannot transcend beyond themselves and their hunger for power as against the rights and welfare of the nation’s majority,” Daisy Arago, CTUHR executive director said.
SAGIP Partylist Rodante Marcoleta who raised the motion to give CHR Php 1,000 and supported by 119 others in the House of Representatives has slammed the CHR for listening “more to the United Nations special rapporteur” and for its failure to protect President Rodrigo Duterte’s human rights when he was criticized for his war on drugs.
Arago pointed out that it is appalling to see many of the country’s lawmakers who are either ignorant or playing ignorant about state responsibility and accountability on human rights. The Center finds it preposterous that while the House of Representatives is defunding a very important institution like the CHR, it is allocating P900 million from people’s money to the bloody war on drugs.
“Now, more than ever, the CHR needs to be active and to remain faithful to its mandate in tackling human rights violations engendered by war on drugs, war against human rights defenders, Oplan Kapayapaan, Martial Law in Mindanao and the mind conditioning for the return of nationwide Martial Law,” Arago added.
Since Duterte came to office, 88 human rights activists and defenders, mostly from the peasant sector, have been killed. The war in Marawi and the Martial Law in Mindanao has cost hundreds of lives of innocent people. The war on drugs has a death toll of more than 13,000 (from PNP operations and vigilante killings).
The group also criticized how the Duterte administration has severely cut the budget from social services that benefit the poor, abandoning whatever he promised the poor will change their lives. The administration has slashed around Php10 billion or about 80% reduction from housing, when the government says housing backlogs remain huge. It has also reduced budget for health, labour and employment, agriculture etc. while putting billions of money to its neoliberal “Build, build, build” program, intelligence fund, police and military.
“Indeed, change has come, but it is deadly for the poor and will be darker even more,” Arago ended.#
Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director
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