THE PHILIPPINES House Committee on Appropriations has said it will restore the budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), which was earlier awarded an annual budget of just PHP1,000 (US$19.64) for 2018.
Head of the parliamentary committee Karlo Nograles announced on Wednesday that the human rights body would have its budget for next year restored after its Chairman Jose Luis Gascon appealed to the House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Alvarez had previously called the body “useless” and said in regards to the CHR’s investigation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drugs war: “If you want to protect the rights of criminals, get your budget from the criminals.”
“The Speaker basically told Chairman Gascon that we are not the enemy. The Duterte government is not the enemy,” said Nograles on Wednesday, who endorsed the restoration of the body’s budget, as quoted by GMA News Online.
“We are one with the CHR in the fight against all forms of human rights violation but they must start looking also at the violations committed by criminals and insurgents.”
The Energy Regulatory Commission and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples will also have their budgets for 2018 restored.
At least 119 out of 151 Philippines Lower House members had previously voted in favour of dramatically cutting the Commission on Human Rights’ budget for 2018, drawing criticism from international rights groups.
The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard called the move “reprehensible and unconscionable.”
Critics of the anti-drugs campaign saw the move as retaliation for the agency’s criticism of Duterte and efforts to probe thousands of killings over the past 15 months. The president has previously threatened to abolish the CHR altogether.
More than 7,000 people have been killed since Duterte took power last June according to official police statistics, while some media organisations estimate the figure is more than 10,000.
The Philippines was recently slammed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who said he was “gravely concerned” by Duterte’s “open support for a shoot-to-kill policy regarding suspects.”
Zeid also criticised the president’s threat to bomb schools for indigenous children in Mindanao, the Philippines’ reinstatement of the death penalty, and the jailing of political opposition figure Leila de Lima – a tireless critic of the President and his bloody war on drugs.
Late last year, Duterte declared Islamic State militants could “forget human rights” if they sought to fight in the Philippines.