Pacific News Minute: Philippine Congress Cuts Budget of Human Rights Commission to $20
Last month, video of the apparent execution of a teenager triggered protests against President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs in the Philippines, but a vote in Congress yesterday suggests that the president’s policies continue to enjoy strong political support. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
The Commission on Human Rights, which has been investigating thousands of killings, requested a budget of 34 million dollars. The government suggested that be cut in half, then yesterday, the lower house of the Philippine Congress approved a budget of 20 dollars. The Speaker of the House, Pantaleon Alvarez described the Commission as “useless” in an interview on local television, he said, “If you want to protect the rights of criminals, get your budget from the criminals.”
There was some opposition.
Congressman Edcel Lagman said the President’s supporters were “virtually imposing the death penalty on a constitutionally created and mandated independent office.” But the measure was approved on a vote of 119 to 32 and is expected to pass in the Senate as well.
President Duterte put the blame entirely on Human Rights Chairman Jose Luis Martin Gascon “he had it coming,” Duterte said. He went on to describe the chairman as a “fool” and as a “yellow” - the color associated with the Aquino family which dominated Philippine Politics before Duterte’s election last year.
Duterte spoke with reporters after he attended the wake of two soldiers killed in the siege of Marawi, the city on the southern island of Mindanao. Marawi was seized by Abu Sayyaf last May; the group had been best known for piracy and kidnapping, but bolstered by foreign fighters brought in under the banner of ISIS, the group continues to hold out against the Philippine Armed forces.