Karapatan calls for increased budget for CHR, rechanneling of CIFs to CHR

Photo from CNN Philippines

September 8, 2023

Karapatan calls on lawmakers to push for an increased and substantial budget for the Commission on Human Rights to be able to perform its mandate in the protection of human rights in the Philippines, as we express our disappointment with the news that in the face of growing human rights violations in the country, the Department of Budget and Management has proposed a mere PhP976 million budget for 2024. The amount is PhP1 billion less than the CHR’s budget request of PhP1.924 billion and PhP25.6 million less than its 2023 budget.

Also considerably slashed by the DBM is a CHR proposed fund to assist victims of human rights violations. From PhP13.7 million this year, the amount is set to plummet to a mere PhP3.8 million in 2024.

It will also be receiving only PhP1 million in confidential and intelligence funds (which should more properly be called investigative funds)–the same amount as this year. This, despite the CHR’s mandate to investigate human rights violations, financially assist victims and provide witness protection. 

This amount is a far cry from the more than PhP10 billion confidential and intelligence funds for the Office of the President and other executive offices. For example, government agencies like the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd), with decidedly different mandates from that of the CHR, will be undeservedly receiving combined confidential and intelligence funds of PhP625 million next year. In the case of the DepEd, its spokesperson has practically admitted that the agency’s PhP125-million CIF will be used mainly to surveil, profile, harass, red-tag and persecute activists and other dissenters among the ranks of students and teachers.

The DBM, in effect, significantly enables these Sara Duterte-led agencies to violate human rights, while curtailing the CHR’s ability to investigate and recommend punishment for rights violators and assist victims.

Instead of allotting huge funds for the wrong purposes, Congress should set right its priorities and rechannel Sara Duterte’s gargantuan CIFs and other such funds to far more deserving and beneficial agencies like the CHR to investigate human rights violations (not as confidential funds) and to basic social services such as health, education and housing. 

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General