By Raïssa Robles
The move of the House of Representatives to slash the Commission on Human Rights budget to the equivalent of US$20 may have unintended consequences, such as rendering the sister of Senate President Koko Pimentel III jobless.
Ironically, the man of the hour who egged on the vote is House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a new member of Pimentel’s PDP-Laban Party, the de facto ruling party of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Did Alvarez even give a thought that Pimentel’s sister, Human Rights Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, would be highly inconvenienced?
I wonder what she thinks of this move. Does she approve?
My hubby says she can easily find a job within the Duterte administration. True.
Still, I wonder what the children of a man who was unjustly incarcerated by Ferdinand Marcos think about Duterte’s human rights record.
Is everything lost?
No. Not at all.
A day before the House voted to punish the CHR for being at the forefront of moves to investigate killings of suspected drug addicts and dealers in the hands of arresting police officers, the Senate Committee on Justice under Senator Loren Legarda quietly (and with not much coverage from the news media) voted to approve a P678 million budget for the CHR.
It was lower than this year’s budget of P749 million, but definitely stratospherically higher than P1000.00 or US$20, give or take a few cents. Not a few netizens noted that the US$20.00 CHR budget would be far lower than the monthly salary of Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson.
The interesting thing about the Senate justice committee’s approved budget for the CHR is that FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME it is appropriating money amounting to P25.565 MILLION for setting up a HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS VICTIMS’ MEMORIAL COMMISSION.
What does this mean?
It means a memorial dedicated to remembering Ferdinand Marcos’ atrocities will be set up. Now that the Marcoses and President Duterte are aware of such a move, will they now strike it down? What happens now?
It really depends on the citizens. If the street protests are gigantic, Duterte will backtrack. Or he might declare Martial Law and claim anarchy in the streets as he has been threatening to do. But Martial Law is only good if people obey.
Please keep in mind, though, that when the proposed budget appropriations for the same agency of government are so far apart in the House and the Senate, both sides will have to come up with a compromise. This will take place during the bicameral conference committee just before the final reading of the national budget. But what if Human Rights Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana leans on her brother to pass the Legarda-backed appropriation?
That would be quite interesting.
Meanwhile, I have been asked on Facebook what ordinary citizens can do when they do not agree with what Congress did.
For starters, you can write, e-mail, tweet, or FB your own congressman and the senators you voted for, plus Human Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana. Go to this link to find out who your congressman is – http://congress.gov.ph/members/?v=region
Remember that we are all “represented” by the congressman of our district. It is time to make your sentiments known to your own congressman. Hound him, serenade him. His vote is not really his own. He is voting for the people in his district.
He is voting for you.
If you don’t like his vote, tell him so.
If you like his vote, applaud him.