As the National Expenditure Program submitted to Congress by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) allotted only P976 million for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in 2024, which is P1 billion less than the commission’s original proposal of P1.924 billion, and less than the 2023 budget of P1 billion.
CHR Chairperson Richard Palpal-latoc cautioned that the “marked decrease” could lead to big changes in how the commission gives out monetary assistance that is “very much needed” by human rights violation victims. A lowered budget would only allow a maximum of P10,000 for financial assistance, which is just a third of the P30,000 that was given in previous years.
“It is a very meager amount considering the nature of why it is given [and] a P10,000 for a violation of human rights is insulting to a victim,” he told the House appropriations panel as he sought additional funds.
Giving compensation to victims of human rights violations is just one of the many mandates of CHR, which is tasked by the 1987 Philippine Constitution to investigate abuses committed by the state.
Under the previous administration, it faced intense criticism and harassment from no less that President Rodrigo Duterte, as it simply fulfilled its mandate by calling out the killings in the state-sponsored war on drugs, which the International Criminal Court is currently investigating.
Duterte’s flagship campaign led to at least 6,252 deaths in anti-illegal drug operations between July 2016 and May 2022. The death toll is estimated to rise to as high as between 27,000 to 30,000 if victims of extrajudicial killings are included, based on monitoring by human rights groups.
For the human rights of a nation to be properly respected and protected, its Commission on Human Rights has to function properly so it can investigate, prosecute, and hopefully prevent future violations against the vulnerable sectors of society who have no one to turn to when state agents abuse their power. Our powerful and influential public officials and legislators who control the purse strings may have no idea how it feels to have their human rights violated, but if they are sincere in wanting to build a society where the human rights of all Filipinos are valued, our government has to set aside the necessary funds so that work can be done.*