Budget for body probing Duterte drugs war slashed to just $25

Elias Hubbard
September 13, 2017

Abella mentioned that the President has "categorically and repeatedly" denied the existence of a shoot-to-kill order, furthering that drug killings are all subject to investigations.

The cut to the budget of the Commission on Human Rights was supported by a margin of 119 to 32 in Congress.

"Many human rights defenders who are the honor of their country face a growing number of death threats, and I call on the government to ensure they are accorded full protection and the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly without reprisals", he said.

Thirty-two minority lawmakers opposed the measure, said Congressman Edcel Lagman, adding that the president's supporters were "virtually imposing the death penalty on a constitutionally created and mandated independent office".

The budget cut now needs to be passed by the Senate, which is dominated by Duterte loyalists, before being sent to the president for a signature. The commission has heavily criticised Duterte's war on drugs, which has seen thousands killed without trial under his anti-drug crackdown.

The Commission of Human rights is one of the independent bodies listed in the Constitution to oversee the work of the executive.

The commission requested a budget of $34 million for 2018 but the government requested a drop, which was less than half of what the commission had asked for.

On the second reading of the legislation, Congress approved that the figure be slashed to just 1,000 pesos, a huge cut from the 2017 budget of 749 million (US$14,713,685).

"The objective of the President's campaign against illegal drugs is to preserve the lives of the Filipino people, to prevent the destruction of Filipino families, and to protect the Philippines from becoming a narco-state", he added.

The agency has long complained it lacks manpower and resources to fully investigate the killings.

Critics maintain police are executing suspects and innocent people, and say the government has what is effectively a kill policy. "Asking me to resign would lead to essentially making the institution forever at the mercy of politics". It investigation in particular on some of the 3.800 deaths of drug addicts or drug traffickers suspected were shot by police and the security forces in operations that are "legitimate" according to them.

Human rights advocates hope senators will restore the agency's current budget.

On the issue on bombing indigenous schools, Abella said it would be better to focus on the Duterte administration's efforts for their education, claiming their program will receive P130.43 million to support nearly three million indigenous students.

Lawmakers may have misunderstood the agency's role, said one representative, Raul del March.

Nicknamed "the Punisher" for his lethal approach to policing, Duterte has previously threatened to abolish CHR, a body he despises for its criticism of his killing campaign, although he later said his threat was a "joke".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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