Lawmakers and their allies believe the House caved under public pressure to restore the budget of the CHR. 

For #TIndigPilipinas! , The people spoke, the House blinked! . This as the group welcomes the restoration of the budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by the House of Representatives.”We see this as a victory for an engaged and enraged citizenry who knew more than their own representatives what the role of CHR is in our democracy.We long for the day when our leaders no longer see the budget process as a means for ego trips, patronage and self-aggrandizement.The budget process must be a sober and enlightened activity that is driven by evidence-based social policy considerations.#TindigPilipinas!”

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano  said, “The House leadership felt the overwhelming sentiments from the people and organizations from both local and abroad for slashing CHRs budget. Members of the House received numerous inquiries from the media and their constituents on their votes and the explanation of such vote. Most of the senators have also expressed their support in upholding the CHRs budget. Certainly, these pressures have reached the doorsteps of the leaders of the House. In the end, the voice of the people prevailed. The people’s representatives heard them and acted accordingly. It was clear that the budget was used as a political tool by allies of Duterte in order to pressure heads of agencies of government especially the CHR to align and cooperate with the agenda of this administration. This arm twisting tactic destroys the essence of check and balance system in our democracy. I continue to believe that CHR must continue to perform its mandate with more vigor in these trying times where threat of dictatorship is slowly rearing its ugly head.”

Gabriela Party List issued this statement, “The House Committee on Appropriations’ statement on the restoration of the budget of the Commission Human Rights (CHR) is a response to the huge backlash on the chamber’s move to defund the institution amid wanton killings and rights violations. It forms part of the various attempts of the Duterte administration to pour cold water on the massive anti-tyranny protest set today, the 45th year of the martial law declaration of the Marcos regime.  But restoring the CHR budget will not alter the fascist character of the 2018 national budget, as huge sums are still allocated for programs aimed at political repression and destruction of communities such as the P900 million for the Oplan Tokhang, P500 million for the community-based intelligence network Masa Masid, P56 billion for right-of-way acquisitions which will lead to demolitions, and billions of intelligence funds tucked under the Office of the President, AFP and PNP. Congress should realign these funds to basic social services such as mass housing and free education.”

The Liberal Party said in a statement, “The restoration of the CHR budget is the people’s win. It is a win for human rights, for collective action, and for truth and reason. A great number of Filipinos expressed their outrage against the jarring decision of the Lower House to grant the CHR a measly budget of Php 1,000. Thousands of citizens called, emailed, tweeted, messaged their representatives asking for an explanation of their vote. Many, including young people, emailed their senators asking for support against the budget cut. These initiatives went viral in both social and traditional media.Various organizations issued scathing statements of condemnation against the budget slash. Senators also expressed their stiff opposition and vowed to correct the unacceptable appropriation. All these combined pressured the Lower House to restore the budget of the CHR.Today, on the 45th year of the declaration of martial law, we celebrate this victory. This is how democracy works. This is People Power, millennial version in the age of social media. This is our, the people’s, victory. “

Opposition Congressmen welcomed the development. Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said in a statement, “Im happy for the country that diplomacy and reason prevailed. I congratulate chair Gascon and chair Quintayo for taking the high ground in seeking a dialogue with the House leaders for the restoration of their budgets.I also laud Speaker Alvarez, MFL Fariñas and Chair Nograles for their humility and gamesmanship in agreeing to restore the budget. I still contend that while the CHR generally advocates for the protection of human rights of all individuals, it’s primary mandate is still to guard against human rights abuses of state actors. Oh and if it’s the intention of Congress that CHR also investigate HR violations done by criminals and rebels and terrorists, then we should not only restore the CHR budget but increase it cuz the scope is now going beyond its primary mandate.

Congratulations to the many Filipinos who expressed their collective voice that rights of IPs and victims of human rights abuses should be guaranteed by Congress through the power of the purse.”

Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said in his own statement, “The will of the people made them backtrack. Using the budget as a political weapon against those critical of the administration or to demand submission by heads of agencies to Congress will create gridlocks and will not work for the interest of the people.Given the negative backlash on the leadership of the House and with the Senate restoring the CHR budget to what was originally proposed, they have to backtrack and restore the CHR’s budget due to a strong public clamor.”

for his part, ACTS OFW Rep. John Bertiz has this reminder for the CHR after the House agreed to restore its budget. Bertiz, who was among the 119 who voted to defund the CHR, told a press conference, “opo bumoto po ako 1000. kaya nga nalulungkot ako kasi although maganda rin po ang nangyari we all move on na binalik po yung budget nila pero ako po for so long ah nakalagay kasi sa mandato ng CHR kung babasahin natin sec 18 #3, the CHR provide appropriate legal measures for the protetcion of human rights of all persons within the PHl as well as filipinos reisding abroad. ako po di ko kinukunsite at kinukundena ko rin yung walang kwentang pagpatay ng ating mga kapulisan…eto pakiusap ko tutal naibalik ang budget niyo pgtuunan niyo rin ang mga kababayan sa ibang bansa lalong lalo na yung mga nakakulong na undocumented.”

House Appropriations Committee Chair and Davao City Congressman Karlo Nograles today said his panel has been given the green light to endorse the restoration of the budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) after the heads of the three offices appealed to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

The breakthrough was achieved after CHR Chair Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon, ERC Commissioner Geronimo Sta. Ana and NCIP Chair Leonor Oralde-Quintayo sought the help of House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Appropriations Chairman Karlo Nograles to act as bridge between them and Speaker Alvarez. 

Nograles said that during the meeting earlier today, Gascon agreed that the CHR should extend its investigations beyond human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by state agents to also include other groups who victimize members of the police, the military and even civilians.

“The Speaker basically told Chairman Gascon that we are not the enemy. The Duterte government is not the enemy. 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,” Nograles said.

As for the ERC and the NCIP, Nograles said that Speaker Alvarez and Majority Leader Fariñas secured their assurance that they would start taking all the necessary steps to fight graft and corruption and to carry out the full mandate of their office. 

“The dialogue was very frank but cordial. In the end, the Speaker was magnanimous in his decision and gave the green light to restoring their budget,” Nograles said.

With this development, Nograles said the restoration of the budget for the CHR, the ERC and the NCIP would already be incorporated in the final version of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 3rd reading approval by the House of Representatives in plenary.

The budgets of the CHR, ERC and NCIP were originally at over 6001B M, 300M and 1B based on the National Expentidute program submitted by Malacanang to the Lower House. The announcement of the restoration came on the eve of a planned massive protest against human rights violations in the Duterte administration.