The Philippines places the value of human rights at $20

Elias Hubbard
September 13, 2017

Lawmakers have voted to give the Commission on Human Rights an annual budget of $20.

Critics maintain police are executing suspects, and say the government has what is effectively a kill policy.

During the budget vote, house speaker and Duterte ally Pantaleon Alvarez criticised the commission, saying it was "useless" and "not doing its job".

The commission was last year awarded nearly (749 million pesos) $15 million for its annual budget, and had initially requested for a budget of 1.72 billion pesos ($34 million) this year.

Though the motion still requires another reading and Senate approval, opponents say it is likely to be passed, as Duterte enjoys a supermajority in the two chambers.

Since the former mayor of Davao city became president last July, government figures show police have killed close to 3,500 "drug personalities", although activists say these are alleged drug users and suspected small-time dealers.

Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the overwhelming support for the cut was "part of the Duterte administration's attempt to prevent independent institutions to check its abuses".

About four-fifths of lower house members present supported the move to cut the budget to nearly nil, in what critics of the anti-drugs campaign call retaliation for the agency's efforts to investigate thousands of killings over the past 15 months. The budget drop was proposed in the second meeting of the Congress.

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. They now voted for a huge drop, which will leave the commission with a budget of just $20 for 2018 if approved.

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

"Asking me to resign would lead to essentially making the institution forever at the mercy of politics".

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

He said that he may take the issue to the Supreme Court. "You can condemn, but that is not the function of the CHR", he added.

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said the new budget was "reprehensible and unconscionable".

The CHR, which investigates the drug killings, has previously come under fire from Duterte himself, who threatened to abolish it.

"For next year, the IP education program will receive P 130.43 million, which is largely for capacity building, program support fund for implementation of IP education at the regional and division level", he said.

Additional reporting from Reuters.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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