Duterte on P1,000 CHR budget: Gascon had it coming

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday blamed Commission on Human Rights chairperson Chito Gascon for the Constitutional body’s House-approved P1,000 budget for 2018.

“He (Gascon) had it coming,” Duterte said in a late night media interview after his visit to the wake of a soldier who died in the Marawi siege.

“He opens his mouth in a most inappropriate way and he conducts the business of being CHR. Walang alam,” the president added.

Duterte then described Gascon as “pro-yellow” — the political color associated with the Liberal Party whose members are critical of the administration.

Citing CHR’s move to deploy a team in Marawi City to monitor possible human rights violations amid the security crisis there, Duterte slammed Gascon for “investigating” government forces and argued that the CHR has no “prosecutory power”.

“When you are an investigating agency and you are empowered to investigate and to prosecute recommendation, itong g***** Gascon na ‘to, nakikialam pa doon sa during the incident,” the chief executive said.

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“Bantayan nila ‘yung pulis, tingnan nila. They collate. They collate. Ipunin. Then they make a study and then they file the appropriate recommendation,” he added.

“Pero kung makihalo ka doon sa pulis, makipagkalkal ka rin. Then pagdating doon sa opisina mo, there is a foregone conclusion already. How are you supposed to be neutral?”

Voting 119-32, the House of Representatives, which is dominated by Duterte’s allies, favored the move to slash the budget of the CHR to a thousand pesos from the Department of Budget’s proposed P678 million.

Before the controversial House vote, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a staunch supporter of Duterte, said the measly budget was appropriate because the CHR had been remiss in its duty to protect the human rights of all Filipinos.

The CHR, as a constitutional body, enjoys fiscal autonomy and cannot be defunded or be given a budget of only a peso, a way for some lawmakers to punish some government agencies.

In August, Duterte said security forces should shoot CHR personnel if they are found to be obstructing justice. This was after his threat to abolish the body, a remark later dismissed as a “joke.”

Despite his diatribes against the CHR chief, Duterte insisted in the same interview on Wednesday that he is not in the business of destroying government institutions.

“Ngayon ‘yang 1,000 na binigay na ng Congress sa opisina niya, kasi galit ang Congress sa kanya. Pero ako naman, since it is really an organ of government… it’s on the Constitution. Maybe someday, they might review their decision. Ako naman, hindi naman ako… I’m not here to destroy institutions,” he said.

The P1,000 budget is not yet final as this would still have to be reconciled with the Senate’s budget for the body at the Bicameral Conference Committee.

In a statement on Tuesday, Gascon said the CHR would continue to campaign for a decent budget as the deliberations move to the Senate, adding that the agency will explore all available remedies.

For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that although the Executive branch proposes the budget, it is still up to lawmakers to approve the appropriation.

“This is part of the checks and balances of our system of government,” he said.