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Alarm as budget of Philippines’ NHRI slashed

Graphic: The CHR Chair, Chito Gascon, addresses the media

The APF has expressed grave concern at extreme cuts made to the annual budget of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines.

The APF and other human rights organisations have expressed alarm at the move by parliamentarians in the Philippines' House of Representatives to slash the annual budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to just US 20 dollars.

The Commission's annual budget for the previous year was US 15 million dollars.

Earlier this week, 119 members in the House of Representatives aligned with President Duterte voted for the budget allocation. Only 32 voted against the measures.

The budget allocation must all be approved by the Senate.

The CHR has been the subject of consistent attacks by the President and other senior officials for its investigation into deaths linked to the government's crackdown on illegal drugs.

More than 3,800 people have been killed in police operations or vigilante attacks since July 2016.

In a statement, the CHR said that it "has always taken positions in favour of human rights … in a non-partisan manner, and as rightfully mandated by the 1987 Constitution."

"The concern for human rights is beyond partisanship or disagreement. We shall seek means to move forward and navigate through the hurdles, mindful of our oath to serve the people and the Republic, because it is what is right and what is needed of the times," the CHR said.

The APF said in a statement that the recent attacks on the CHR and its Chairperson, Jose Luis Martin Gascon, were of "grave concern".

"It appears that these public attacks seek to intimidate and undermine the integrity of the Commission to independently perform its constitutionally mandated role as the Philippines' principal human rights body," APF Chairperson Jamsran Byambadorj said.

The Chairperson of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) echoed these concerns.

"These threats against an independent state body that is fulfilling its statutory duties to promote and protect human rights are of grave concern to GANHRI," Professor Dr Beate Rudolf said in a statement.

"The role of NHRIs is precisely to promote and protect human rights and it falls upon their respective governments to create the necessary enabling environment, including by upholding the independence of an NHRI and respecting its mandate," she said.

Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, told ABC News that the CHR was a "very important agency" and the budget cuts were another instance of the government "attacking and undermining elements and agencies of accountability".

Date: 14 September 2017

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  1. The CHR Chair, Chito Gascon, addresses the media - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines