Alvarez warns: House can't just follow what Senate wants
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday remained adamant over the decision of the House of Representatives to give the Commission on Human Rights a budget of only P1,000, essentially putting the chamber on a collision course with the Senate.
On Wednesday, senators warned of a budget impasse as they vowed to restore the budget for the constitutional agency.
The House on Tuesday agreed with a motion tabled by Rep. Rodante Marcoleta to give the agency the measly appropriation, in line with the speaker's previous pronouncement to give the CHR a P1,000 budget for its failure to do its job to protect the human rights of all Filipinos.
Alvarez said members of the House were just doing their jobs of making government agencies accountable.
"Ako ginagalang ko ang Senado no, pero hindi po basta yoon ang gusto ng Senado yoon ang masusunod yoon lang po ang masasabi ko diyan," the speaker said in an interview with DZMM radio.
Although the senators and representatives could talk to reconcile the two chambers' budget versions, Alvarez said, "Hindi po puwede kung ano yung gusto nila yoon ang susundin namin."
Alvarez insisted that based on the Constitution the budget would emanate from the House since they were the "representatives of the people."
"Hindi po nag-uumpisa ang budget sa Senado, sa House of Representatives po at yun po ang nakalagay sa Saligang Batas," he said, reminding senators.
Alvarez also doubled down on his previous insistence that the CHR was not performing its duty, even daring it to show its accomplishments and programs in the past years protecting the rights especially of crime victims.
"Mayroon ba silang nagawa? Wala, wala akong makita Ted. In fact, nagtataka ako, tuwing mayroon na napatay diyan, yung talagang ano, innocent victims dito sa mga illegal drugs na ito, wala namag kibo sila, walang kibo. Kumikibo lang sila kapag halimbawa, yung against sa military, against sa pulis, against sa yung mga government officials, hindi ba?" he said.
He added: "Hindi naman ganoon yung mandato nila."
The arguments of Alvarez and his allies, however, have been criticized especially by lawmakers who opposed the appropriation at the House.
Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay said that this argument, also utilized by Marcoleta in his motion, failed to distinguish between common crimes and violations of human rights.
Lagman explained that the crimes of militants, rebels and other non-state parties are sanctioned by the laws of the country.
The CHR, meanwhile, has jurisdiction over offenses of the state and its agents against the people.
"Again, this is not a question of weakening their rights, this is a question of accountability to the people," Alvarez said in defending their move.