Ignorance

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Some of the 119 legislators who voted to grant a P1,000 budget to the Commission on Human Rights gleefully do the fist salute after the session. (photo: Inquirer.net)

AND SO THE REFRAIN these days is that the CHR has completely failed because it protects criminals but not their victims. It’s so ubiquitous, I’ve got LSS. It’s sung by government officers from the chief executive to the clerks; but it’s loudest in the House of Representatives where 119 members voted last week to grant the Commission a measly P1,000, which practically abolishes the body.

I can’t believe they don’t know how the CHR works. They are lawmakers after all, these 119. The noisiest of them are lawyers – Pantaleon Alvarez, Rodolfo Fariñas, and Reynaldo Umali. They’ve had eight years of collegiate studies, they’ve been trained in statutory construction, legal hermeneutics, constitutional and political law. They’ve (presumably) legitimately passed the Bar – how can they feign ignorance?

GASLIGHTERS

They are not ignorant. On the contrary, I feel they understand it very well. Their sham outrage, their repeated rebukes, their umbrage over the CHR’s failure to protect them as well as criminals (?!) – these all seem to be their clever manipulation of the popular psyche. Their end goal is to remove Chito Gascon; if along the way the CHR is gutted, well, for them that’s all right too.

I grant that not all the 119 may even appreciate what they did. Many of them have dubious qualifications and probably doze during deliberations as Arnel Ty did during the Martial Law debate last July. It’s even possible they don’t really care.

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LPGMA party list represenative Arnel Ty snoozes as Sen. Gringo Honasan debates with Sen. Frank Drilon at a high point in the proceedings. Ty voted for the martial law extension anyway.  (photo: Screenshot from RTVM on YouTube)

What’s obvious is that they are dancing to the tune piped by the House leaders, a tune composed by Rodrigo Duterte for no clear reason than that he needs to bulldoze anything that blocks his path. There’s probably a better way to state that, but why finesse a grotesque reality? The thing to do is to call it out.

DEMOLITION JOB

So, right on cue, they shriek this discordant strain meant to turn people off the CHR. But it is such a protected agency with such a lofty mandate – how can they make the public sing along? Duterte showed them how. He squawked the refrain when Leila de Lima began investigating the rising extrajudicial killings last year. This animus against the CHR is his, entirely his. “P***nang CHR yan!” Duterte said on various occasions, in varying decibels. And we should expect this. Duterte cannot allow the only constitutional body whose main task is to check him and his government to remain unchallenged. That would be too democratic, entirely uncharacteristic of this strongman. So, off with its head. Chuwariwaps to the resbak.

This is why Alvarez has been so loud. This is why his bootlickers are busy shimmying to his beat. And this is why the House majority disgusts me now more than usual.

I’m glad not everyone has eaten the mushrooms.

The DND’s Delfin Lorenzana declared that the CHR must be funded, saying that it serves as a guide to the security forces and makes them “careful.” Even controversial Ozamiz police chief Jovie Espenido favors a full budget for the CHR. He remarked, with surprising appreciation for the CHR’s task, that the body is vital for checks and balances but that it must not operate on hearsay. Senate President pro tempore Ralph Recto spoke truth when he said that the CHR needs an even greater allocation than it previously received. A miffed Alvarez boorishly retorted, Eh dagdagan niya ng pera niya kung ‘yon ang gusto niya,” causing Recto to respond amusedly, “Relax lang.” But Alvarez is in character as the rampaging pit bull of the mayor of the Philippines; he is not in the mood to chill.

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photo: Screenshot from GMA News on Facebook.

Ultimately, this will be settled in the bicameral legislative committee. Senate president Koko Pimentel feels that a compromise may be reached that will be fair to all. “At the end of the day, I believe that reason and compassion will prevail and that the legislature will do what is best for our people,” he said. Not to be bested, Alvarez shot back, “It can’t be that we will just give them what they want. That’s presumptuous of them. We will talk and justify, but we won’t just give it back. They would just be dreaming.” 

As Yosemite Sam says, “Them’s fighting words!” Looney tunes indeed.

The Senate Finance Committee approved an allocation of P678 million for the CHR, which is P71m lower than its P749m 2017 budget. If the bicameral committee reaches an impasse and fails to resolve it by December 31, the CHR will operate on a “re-enacted budget,” which is essentially the budget it previously received, i.e. P749m.

In view of this, the CHR would benefit from a deadlock, though some senators say they are committed to giving it an even larger allocation than the Finance Committee produced. We shall see. What we know is that the CHR will not remain unfunded, and all of this fracas is merely a song and dance.

It’s been said that the House is making a point with its P1k grant. It’s unhappy with Chito Gascon, it’s dissatisfied with the current CHR policies and their implementation, it’s dismayed by the “yellow streak” running through the CHR. These are all ignorant observations by an institution that should know better.

The House majority has exposed itself miserably. It has shown its readiness to hoodwink the public and defame a constitutional body charged with a noble task – a task it was nobly discharging – merely to please an autocrat. How ironic that it accuses Gascon of being yellow. If Yosemite Sam were around, he’d call the “supermajority” a bunch of “yellow-bellied sapsuckers” – the epitome of cowardice. And darn tootin’, he’d be right.

Jesus said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” – John 8:44

For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. –  Luke 8:17

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