Human Rights Watch hits Congress fund for CHR

Philippines Commission on Human Rights budget cut to $20 amid deadly war on drugs

Philippines Commission on Human Rights budget cut to $20 amid deadly war on drugs

But Pantaleon Alvarez, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the lower house of the country's Congress, defended the funding plan.

In November a year ago, Duterte cited internal and intelligence reports that there is rampant corruption and questionable appointments within the ERC.

Ejercito said supporting CHR is important since the body serves as the guardian against abuse of those in power and those with authority.

With the Senate and the House of Representatives having different views on the role of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon warned of a possible deadlock in the 2018 budget.

"I happen to be the sponsor of the CHR budget in the Senate, along with a few other agencies like the DND (Department of National Defense), the Armm (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), etc".

The CHR is reported to have requested for a 1.72bn pesos budget for 2018, but the government had proposed only a little over half of that.

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The motion still needs the approval of the Senate.

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

Chito Gascon, who heads the CHR, said the vote was an attempt to force his resignation and he would take the issue to the supreme court if necessary.

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.

"The principal reason why I can not resign my office is that to do so is to weaken the institution itself", Gascon said. However, the brutal campaign has maintained the support of many Filipinos exhausted of drug-driven crime in the country. "Asking me to resign would lead to essentially making the institution forever at the mercy of politics". The police reject that and say they kill only in self-defence.

The drastic cut to the Commission on Human Rights' (CHR) budget was supported by 119 politicians to just 32 in the country's congress.

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Aquino said that with the numerous deaths and reports of police abuses, "we need this body to do its duty as mandated by the Constitution".

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

Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said Filipinos deserved a strong, independent rights organisation that could hold the state accountable.

Callamard recently described the killing of 17-year-old schoolboy Kian Delos Santos by Manila police as "murder" in a tweet on Aug 25, earning the ire of Duterte who in a separate speech later called her "son of a bitch" and "stupid".

Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the vote "is part of the Duterte administration's attempt to prevent independent institutions to check its abuses, particularly in the context of the brutal drug war that has claimed the lives of thousands, including dozens of children".

Additional reporting from Reuters.

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