U-turn over controversial decision to slash government agency budgets

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CHR budget
Lawmakers celebrating cutting the budgets of three government agencies last week with Duterte fist bumps

The House of Representatives is set to restore the budget of three government agencies following a controversial vote to slash their funding to 1,000 pesos.

The change of heart was announced by House Appropriations Committee chairman Karlo Nograles today (Wednesday, September 20).

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Nograles said his panel was given the go-ahead to endorse the restoration of the proposed budgets for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The U-turn came after the agency heads appealed directly to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

As we reported, lawmakers voted to slash their budgets, saying they had failed to fulfil their mandates.

The CHR had an initial proposed budget of 623.38 million, the NCIP 1.132 billion, and the ERC 365 million.

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The breakthrough was achieved after CHR chairman Chito Gascon, ERC Commissioner Geronimo Santa Ana and NCIP Chair Leonor Oralde-Quintayo sought the help of House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Nograles.

CHR budget restored

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

Already, it has been announced that the CHR will investigate the death of UST law student Horacio Castillo, who was killed during an apparent fraternity ‘hazing’ ritual.

“The speaker told Gascon that we are not the enemy,” Nograles said. “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.”

As for the ERC and the NCIP, Nograles said Alvarez and Fariñas secured the assurance that they would step up the fight against graft and corruption.

“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.

Following the decision, Gascon said: “We thank the leadership of the House of Representatives for their open mind and open heart in accepting arguments of reason and necessity to continue to fund CHR’s work.”

The restoration of the budgets will be included in the final version of the General Appropriations Bill for third reading approval by the House of Representatives.

 

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