Barely four (4) months in Office but with what she termed as modest accomplishments and Herculean tasks ahead, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Leila M. De Lima is very convinced that there is a `must’ to increase the independent constitutional body’s 2009 budget or double the President’s proposed allocation for the Commission.
According to the CHR head, “there is so much to do and can be done in the protection and promotion of the human rights but the CHR lacks logistical support.” The CHR Chairperson said that “the Commission do not even have its own building and just renting one old, condemned one, one earthquake, there we go, “she added with a chuckle.
In addition to this, Chairperson De Lima finds it only appropriate that there is a necessity for the rights body to establish an independent forensic center to be more credible in the course of its investigative and monitoring powers. “Imagine what could be the implications if the persons that we investigate are the uniformed personnel themselves as the abusers but we rely on their own forensic findings?. It’s quite absurd , ” she intoned.
The President has proposed a P253.316 million for the CHR’s 2009 budget but the Commission appeals to be given an additional P284M. The original CHR’s budget from Malacañang is pegged at P234,852.000.00 while CHR bats for its Maintainance and Office Operating Expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay in the amount of P284M. The Department of Budget and Management proposed a zero budget for the Commission’s capital outlay.
Aside from the establishment of its own forensic center, the CHR is set to purchase new service vehicles for its regional offices to enhance the personnel’s investigative work. There is also a plan to revitalize the Barangay Human Rights Action Center (BHRAC) program and strengthen the Commission’s specialized centers—the Women’s Human Rights Center (WHRC) as well as the Children’s Rights Centers (CHR). “All these entail increased funds for MOOE and capital outlay so we were asking such funds in our proposal,” Chairperson De Lima said.
The CHR Chief expressed elation over the development of human rights in the country as it has `become the language of the time’. One good example, she articulates, is the fact that the main announcement of the newly-installed PNP Chief Jesus Versoza is about the PNP’s becoming more human-rights compliant. As this developed, Chairperson De Lima added that with the CHR’s education and advocacy program undertaken with the help of the Commission’s partners such as the DepEd, the PNP, the AFP, and the wide work of the NGOs, the Filipinos have become more aware and become consistently assertive of their rights. Thus, the CHR head continued, these positive developments definitely need more interventions from the Commission. She added that she hopes to bring such human rights awareness at the `grassroots’ level through the BHRAC. “We also need to be more proactive. Our efforts and actions should be felt by the people especially the victims and the vulnerable sectors who comprise the CHR clientele.”
On the positive side, Chairperson De Lima is overwhelmed by the support extended to the CHR with regard to the increased budget proposal from the members of the House of Representatives, notably, Hon. Rissa Hontiveros-Baraquel who moved for the approval of the proposal during the Commission’s September 26 budget hearing before the House Sub-Committee on Appropriations. The approval, the CHR Chief volunteered, was seconded by Iloilo Congressman Neil Tupas. It was remembered that the CHR observed that there was a human rights violations committed during the Iloilo standoff last year. In the meantime, the sub-committee Chair, Congressman Paul Daza of Samar, also announced that several Congressmen approached him before the September 26 hearing expressing full support in the CHR initiated increase in the 2009 budget. “ As people looking from the outside, we at the CHR are quite hopeful that other Congressmen will realize what we wish to attain—that is to be the “prime mover to champion everyone’s human rights”.
“With the voluminous work and most of the times nearly impossible missions that beset us right through our faces, hard work and dedication is not enough. We need logistic support to be more realistic and substantial in our effort to make the difference in the lives of all of us. As it is, human rights is universal—a leverage of dignity, of equality, “ Chairperson De Lima said.
Plenary hearing for the CHR budget is set on October 7