P1,000 For CHR: House And Senate Continue Debate On Government’s 2018 Budget

There were two big pieces of news to start the third week of September: the approach of tropical depression “Maring” and the results of the budget debates at the House of Representatives.

Maring caused the cancellation of classes across Luzon and the suspension of work in the Supreme Court as well as other government offices in Metro Manlia, Calabarzon, and the Central Luzon Area. Despite this, however, the House of Representative trooped in to continue discussions on the national budget for 2018.

The proposed 2018 budget, also known as the 2018 General Appropriation Bill (GAB), will determine how our government allocates funds toward various programs that are meant to improve our lives. Much like a personal budget ensures that you live within your means, it ensures that government departments have the funds to pursue their mandates and provide services to the public.

The National Budget usually goes through three readings and three rounds of voting in the House of Representatives before being passed on to the Senate, which also holds their own deliberations on the proposed budget allocations. As of September 12, the House of Representatives GAB on its second reading.

Want an idea on what the government is proposing to spend on next year? Well the total budget comes to P3.767 trillion. Below, we’ve listed some of the government departments and their proposed budgets from highest to lowest.

Department of Education P691.2 billion
Department of Public Works and Highways P630.24 billion
Department of Interior and Local Government P170.73 billion
Department of National Defense P144.67 billion
Department of Social Welfare and Development P137.55 billion
Department of Health P104.71 billion
Local Government Units P78.23 billion
Budgetary Support to Government Corporations P70.1 billion
Department of Transportation P61.05 billion
Department of Agriculture P51.83 billion
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao P32.3 billion
Calamity fund P25.5 billion
Department of Environment and Natural Resources P21.57 billion
Department Science and Technology P20.97 billion
Department of Finance P17.97 billion
Department of Justice P17.27 billion
Contingent fund P13 billion
Department of Agrarian Reform P9.93 billion
House of Representatives P9.6 billion
Department of Information and Communications P6.87 billion
Department of Labor and Employment P6.85 billion
Office of the President P6 billion
Senate P4.2 billion
Department of Tourism P3.33 billion
Department of Energy P2.65 billion
Office of the Vice President P443.9 million

Each round of voting is usually proceeded by a series of debates where the representatives can propose amendments to the proposed budget allocations of the specific departments.

Probably the most shocking developments during this round of budget debates was the proposal and approval of dramatic budget cuts for three departments, the Commission of Human Rights (CHR), the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), and the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP). Those three departments were given only a P1,000 budget each.

In the case of the ERC, the cut was said to be motivated by the general sentiment of the House that the ERC needs to clean up their act as the department is currently facing allegations of corruption.

The budget cut to the NCIP is said to have been prompted by the commissions failure to carry out its mandate to protect the rights of indigenous people. The NCIP had initially asked for a P1.1 billion budget.

It was the cut to the CHR’s budget that has garnered the most noise with many expressing outrage but some expressing support. The CHR had initially asked for a budget of 649.484 million to continue their work.

The CHR has been in the outs with current administration for their continued denouncement of extra judicial killings that they believe are a result of the ongoing war on drugs. Meanwhile, it’s critics blast it for not being more concerned with the victims of crime.

Even before the budget debates, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was vocal about his intention to see the CHR’s budget slashed due to his perception that the commission was not doing its job. Alvarez has criticized the CHR for only protecting the rights of criminals.

“What is there mandate of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines? Protect everyone’s human rights, not just watch over the police and government for abuses,” Alvarez told CNN Philippines.

Meanwhile, the CHR has stated that they have indeed been fulfilling their mandate as their purpose is to protect people from state-perpetuated abuses. It is the police and the state’s mandate to protect people from abuse at the hands of criminals.

In any case, this is not the end of the road for the proposed budget as it is still expected to undergo a third and final reading at the house which is scheduled on September 21. After this, the GAB will be deliberated by the Senate which can also propose and pass their own amendments.

On the same day that the House cut the CHR’s budget, the Senate’s finance committee approved the CHR’s proposed budget.