A SENATE subcommittee on Tuesday approved the P976-million budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for next year, without increasing the agency’s intelligence fund.
Senator Jose “Jinggoy” P. Estrada, who presided over the Senate finance subcommittee hearing, said the agency’s budget would be submitted to the Senate plenary in the absence of further questions.
The Senate body approved the budget along with CHR’s P1-million confidential fund, which some senators have said is not enough.
CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia earlier asked the Senate panel to increase her agency’s confidential funds to P5 million, which was the amount given to it in 2018 and 2019.
“Maybe our regular programs and services do not reach the public, but we do provide financial assistance and legal assistance to them,” she told a hearing in Filipino on Sept. 6, referring to human rights victims.
Senator Rafael “Raffy” T. Tulfo earlier said the CHR needs more confidential funds to fast-track investigations of human rights violations.
He said there are agencies that have more confidential funds but are not deserving. “Therefore, the CHR needs more confidential funds. P1 million is not enough.”
Mr. Tulfo said CHR should take a more active role in going after suspects of human rights abuses.
Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. in July said his government would not cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into the thousands of killings committed during his predecessor’s war on drugs.
He said the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Southeast Asian country, which withdrew from the ICC in March 2019.
“We will not cooperate with them in any way, shape or form,” Mr. Marcos told reporters, just days after appeals judges at the ICC rejected the Philippines’ attempt to block an investigation by the court’s prosecutors into the anti-narcotics campaign of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
Mr. Marcos should support accountability for grave crimes in the Philippines and uphold the country’s obligation under the ICC’s founding Rome Statute to cooperate with the court, Human Rights Watch said earlier.
CHR has said the government should view the decision as an opportunity to show its commitment to punish human rights violators.
The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber in January reopened its probe of Mr. Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, saying it was not satisfied with government efforts to probe human rights abuses.
It was also set to probe vigilante-style killings in Davao City when the former president was still its vice mayor and mayor.
The tribunal, which tries people charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and aggression, suspended its probe of the deadly drug war in 2021 upon the Philippine government’s request.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Ahmad A. Khan earlier said the Philippines had not raised new arguments to justify halting the probe.
The Philippines has accepted 200 recommendations from the United Nations Human Rights Council, including investigating extralegal killings and protecting journalists and activists.
The government estimates that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers were killed in police operations. Human rights groups say as many as 30,000 suspects died.
Last year, Mr. Marcos Jr. said the Philippines would not rejoin the ICC, which political experts said is meant to protect his predecessor from prosecution. — JVDO