By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

A PHILIPPINE congressman on Wednesday urged Congress to transfer confidential funds of the Office of the President (OP) and Office of the Vice President (OVP) to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) amid recent civilian abductions allegedly by the military.

“Instead of allocating the budget for confidential funds under the budget of the Office of the President and Office of the Vice President, we can place this under the CHR so funds can be used for more significant purposes,” Assistant Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas said during plenary debates at the House of Representatives.

The President and Vice President’s offices have been allotted P4.56 billion and P500 million in confidential and intelligence funds for next year, while the Education department, which Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio heads, was given P150 million in confidential funds.

Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong, who sponsored CHR’s budget, sought to increase its budget to P1.92 billion from the P976.91 million proposed by the Budget department.

She said 14 laws had not been given funding next year including Republic Act 9851 or the Crimes against International Humanitarian law, RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, RA 11036 or the Mental Health Act, RA 11166 of the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act and RA 11188 or the Special Protection of Children in Armed Conflict Act.

There is also no budget for the Anti-Terrorism Act, Anti-Torture Act, Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law, Filipino Sign Language Act, Magna Carta for Women and several laws against child sexual abuse and human trafficking.

The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking as well as access to protection services for refugees, stateless persons and asylum seekers were not allocated funds under the budget, Ms. Limkaichong said. “If we add up the cost of all these unfunded mandates, it will approximately need a budget of P271.617 million,” she added.

Only P3.8 million has been earmarked as financial assistance for victims of human rights violations, about P10 million lower than the budget this year.

Ms. Brosas sought to increase CHR’s budget after two environmental activists were allegedly kidnapped by the military.

During plenary debates on the Defense department’s budget, Negros Oriental Rep. Mercedes K. Alvarez said the military had denied involvement in activists’ kidnapping.

She added that lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office and the stepfather of one of the activists were present when they signed an affidavit for their surrender and admitting that they were members of the Maoist movement.

“How can we expect such an affidavit to really bare weight especially if the signing happened in a setting where the women were vulnerable?” Party-list Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel asked.

Defense Secretary Gilbert C. Teodoro told reporters the military would file perjury charges against the activists.