Between 4pm to 6pm of Tuesday, as Maring battered parts of Luzon, a different storm brewed in the Batasan Pambansa as it voted to give the Commission of Human Rights at P1000 budget in one of the most contentious votes in the 17th Congress.
The debate began with a motion by 1SAGIP Rep, Rodante Marcoleta…”one of the intended function of the CHR is to investigate on its own or on complaint by any party all forms of human rights violations…mr speaker. the mamasapanop massacre is perhaps the most tragic the most vriulent the most revolting and the most brutal face of human cruelty..have you seen how the 44 members of the SAF have been ignominously maimed mutilated and mercilessly killed? my question is have you at least seen…have you seen how the 44 members of the SAF have been ignominously maimed mutilated and mercilessly killed? does the CHR believe that the members of the SAF 44 have human rights?”
The CHR budget’s sponsor, Cebu Rep Raul del Mar said, “there were human rights violations and humanitarian law violations. one the part of the soldiers the police that were killed as well as the civilians.”
Marcoleta asked, “what about or the group of persons who planned the operations? did the chr find anybody liable?”
Del Mar responded. “the investigation did not go too far what was in focus was the violations of the human rights at the level of the event to look only at the aspect of human rights as to who planned it and other details is left to other investigative bodies”
Marcoleta responded, “The CHR should at least have granted immunity from prosecution to any persons whose tetsimony is necessary or contingent to the truth.”
Del Mar responded. “no one person asked the CHR for immunity.”
Marcoleta asked, ”Does president Duterte have human rights”
del mar answered, “everyone your honor”
Marcoleta asked, “does CHR think that the human rights of president duterte was violated by new york times”
del Mar responded, “no your honor…the journalist who wrote the editorial have freedom of expression and 2ndly public officials are held to abide by the standards set in our constitution on human rights?”
Marcoleta asked, “chr was not cocnerned at all when the Ny times asked the world condemnation of the president?”
Del Mar said, “the CHR is there doing its job and cannot respond to each and every statement that is made. this is fundamental if we respect everybody’s right, human rights the more we defend the president’s human rights.”
Marcoleta asked, “what law created the CHR?”
del Mar answered, “the constitution itself under the provisions have just ciuted you cited on the provisions of the functions of the CHR in Sec 17 and so if i may quote…sec 17 there is hereby created an independent office called the commission on human rights”
Marcoleta asked, “you were mentioning EO 163 which was dated May 5 1987. is this the basis youre referring to?”
Del Mar said, “the constitution is the basis..EO 163 is the implementing legislation”
Marcoleta asked, “the EO was issued May 5 19877 it is very clear the president of the philippines at that time has no more legislative powers. it should be congress which created the CHR. it is not correct to say that because the constitution mentioned the CHR…it is already created…how can we appropriate budget to an agency which ahs not ben validly created i move we should assihn a 1000 budget to the CHR”
Floor Leader Rimpy Bondoc said, “we second the motion. “
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said, “objection”
Bondoc said, “we have seconded it…now we divide the House”
Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza said, “may we be given a chance”
Erice said, “may we explain our objection”
Bondoc said, “the honorable marcoleta has made a motion, duly seconbded by the majority leader it has been oipposed by the gentleman from caloocan i move we divide the House”
Del Mar said, “ we object to the motion…the sponsor should be allowed 3 minutes to explain his objection”
amid the flurry of voices speaking at the same time, Presiding Officer Eric Singson appeared confused and announced the resulting of a vote even before one can be taken. “the ayes have it…session suspended”
The congressmen then huddled, led by Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas.
after the break, Bondoc allowed Atienza, del Mar and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman to explain their objections.
Atienza said, “ kinakailangan pong ipaliwanag namin ito. mali mali po ang mga sinabi ng kgg na marcoleta punong puno ng depekto. pait pangulo ng bansa idepensa ng chr napakalabo noon pag ito po inabolish wala na po pupuntahan ng bansa. pagkat ang prublema violations of human rights…it shoiuld be giuven maybe 2B to function properly
this shojuld not be abolished. it should be strengthened.”
Lagman said, “the chr has no jurisidiction over non state parrties. it has jurisidictyion over offenses committed by the state and agents of the state.”
Del Mar said, “we used to thtreaten agencies with reducing their annual budget to P1 or zero. this 1000 must be the adjustment to inflation it’s ridiculous. it involves an agency created by the constitution…seriously can congress legally go against a clear purpose and intent of the constitution? who’s kidding who? 1000 is practically abolishing the CHR CHR can no longer function on such a ridiculous amount. we are abolishing the CHR which we do not have th power to do so. CHR has obnligations under the constiotutiona s well as the intl community…its functyions are misunderstood by some people. we need to be reminded CHR was created to curb abuses and excesses in the seat of power. our lack of emptahy with CHR clould also be because many victims of human rights are drug dealers and criminals?”
The House was then divided in a viva voce vote, but the nayes or those opposed to the P1000 budget sounded louder than the nayes even if the presiding officer said the ayes have it.
Atienza said, “malinaw malakas naye”
Akbayan rep. Tom villarin said, “i move for nominal voting”
Singson said, “let us clarify the voting those in favor for reduction of budget of chr to 1000 please say aye. please the gallery do not vote
id like to clarify those who are in favor of the motion of honorable marcoleta please say aye (aye) those against saye (naye) the ayes have it”
Atienza said, “do not commit mistake the of railroading this measure,. we heard a vote of naye”
Bondoc said, “our rules on voting are very…there are rules in the HoR sec 115 is very clear..if the speaker doubts the result of the voting…the speaker shall ask those in favor to rise to be followed against. it is simple we will ask those in favor of the motion of honorable marcoleta to rise… we are now asking those in favor of the motion to please rise those opposed please stay seated”
The final result, 119-32. House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas explained why they cannot give a breakdown of the list of how the congressmen voted. “There is no such record as voting was by ayes and nays, which was ultimately done with members standing to vote when the nays challenged the ruling of the chair that the ayes had it.”
The vote however doesnt automatically reduce the budget of the agency yet, as the 2018 budget still has to be approved by the House on 3rd and final reading, the Senate and the President of the Philippines.
During the committee deliberations and in subsequent media interviews, the Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez already indicated his preference to reduce the budget of the CHR as it ahs been critical of the war on drugs.
Farinas said the money that would have been allocated to CHR would be allocated somewhere else. responding to the public query of senator panfilo lacson, farinas said, “Sen. Lacson will have to wait for the Small Committee to make the individual amendments submitted by the Members.”
Congressmen have until Friday to submit their amendments. The House will put the budget bill to a vote on 3rd and final reading next week.