By Paterno Esmaquel II in Manila
United Nations Rapporteur Agnes Callamard has slammed the P1000 (NZ$26) budget that the House of Representatives voted to give the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for 2018.
Callamard has explained in an email to Rappler that the CHR “is a crucial institution for the Philippines: for human rights protection, the rule of law, accountability”.
“It cannot deliver on its mandate without an appropriate budget, particularly at a time when it is confronted with allegations of massive human rights violations throughout the country, and including, but not only, in the context of the ill-advised, destructive ‘war on drugs,'” Callamard said.
“The people of the Philippines deserve a strong independent human rights institution able to monitor, investigate, and report on human rights violations, protect victims and their families, and hold the powerful to account for their abuses of international human rights standards,” she said.
“Instead they are getting a ‘war on drugs’ which, by the President’s own account, has failed to curtail addiction rates, while creating a climate of fear and insecurity, feeding impunity, and undermining the constitutional fabric of the country. If the Philippine Congress is looking for public money being wasted, damaging and hurting the Philippine society, this is it,” the UN rapporteur said.
Earlier, in a tweet, Callamard said of the lawmakers’ move: “Reprehensible and unconscionable”.
Callamard is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, connected with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
She was the UN expert invited by President Rodrigo Duterte to probe the killings in the Philippines, provided that she engages Duterte in a debate – a condition that she has refused.
Callamard made her statement after the House of Representatives voted 119-32 to allocate only P1000 for the CHR in 2018.
In contrast, the House earlier approved a P900-million ($18-million) budget for Oplan Double Barrel, the anti-drug campaign of the Philippine National Police.
The P1000 budget for the CHR is not final, however, as it has to go through the Senate too for another round of deliberations. In any case, it already drew flak from Filipinos who described it as an “act of tyranny”.
The House is dominated by allies of Duterte, who has repeatedly slammed the CHR for questioning the killings in his war on drugs.
More than 14,100 people have been killed in both police operations and vigilante-style killings since Duterte began his drug war in July 2016.