Sen. Chiz Escudero said he will fight to restore the budget allocation for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Senate after the House of Representatives slashed the agency’s spending package for 2018 to a meager P1,000.
“The CHR is a constitutional imperative and a necessity, however inconvenient it may be for some. I will fight to restore its budget,” Escudero said.
The Senate Committee on Finance, however, approved on the panel level on Sept. 11 the CHR’s proposed budget of P678 million, which is lower than its P749 million budget last year.
Since 2007, Escudero, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, has been filing the bill which seeks to strengthen CHR by providing an effective and expanded structural and functional organization to meet the demands of human rights cases here and abroad.
“It is unacceptable to forever regard the CHR as a toothless tiger if it is a state policy to secure protect and guarantee the dignity of its citizens and to ensure the fulfillment of such citizens’ human rights,” Escudero said.
According to the senator, under Senate Bill No. 727, the CHR will be given prosecutorial powers over delineated forms of human rights violations, which will aid the commission in ensuring effective and speedy resolution of all human rights cases filed with the CHR.
Escudero explained that the CHR, under its current mandate, is neither a judicial nor a quasi-judicial body and its jurisdiction is limited only to political and civil rights.
“The ineffectiveness of the commission is due to its failure to prosecute reported cases of human rights violations. Its hands are tied because the existing law provides only investigative and advocacy powers,” said Escudero, who is a lawyer himself.
Escudero also said the prosecutorial power sought to be granted will equip the CHR a significant power to fully realize its mandate under the Constitution.
The veteran lawmaker was at the forefront of the passage of the law decriminalizing vagrancy as well as the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act and the Anti-Torture Act when he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Human Rights.
He is also the sponsor of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act which provides compensation for victims of human rights violations during Martial law.