Rights agency needs ₱271M for unfunded mandates in 2024 budget

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) would need around ₱271 million for unfunded mandates which include laws on anti-enforced disappearance and the protection of women and children as the body seeks a 2024 budget that "matches its responsibility."

Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong, the sponsor of the commission's ₱976.3-million budget proposal, disclosed this figure during the plenary debates at the House of Representatives on Wednesday

"Along the way, Congress has strengthened CHR by expanding its role and mandate through new laws, but unfortunately, expanding the work of CHR has not resulted in the corresponding increase in the budget of CHR," she said. "Instead, a review of pieces of legislation brought about unfunded mandates."

The CHR, an independent national human rights institution under the Constitution, originally proposed around ₱1.9 billion for 2024, but the Department of Budget and Management only approved ₱976.3 million.

It is also smaller than the current outlay of ₱993 million.

Limkaichong said there are no funds to carry out the International Humanitarian Law of 2009, Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, Anti-Torture Act of 2009, Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, and Executive Order 163 series of 2022 which gives access to protection services for refugees, stateless persons, and asylum seekers.

She cited unfinanced legislation for the protection of women and children, particularly the Magna Carta of Women, Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act, Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials Act, and prohibition of child marriage law.

The lower budget would cut the capability of the commission to implement the Mental Health Act, Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, and Filipino Sign Language Act, the lawmaker said.

Limkaichong said the reduction in funding would affect CHR's financial assistance program, which saw a decrease to ₱3.8 million from around ₱13 million this year, as well as transportation costs for on-ground investigations, funds for training, and rent expenses for regional offices, among others.

"In light of its expansive mandate and challenges it confronts, I implore my esteemed colleagues to consider increasing the budget of CHR for 2024 to its original proposed budget of ₱1.924 billion," Limkaichong said.

In her interpellation, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas also raised the budget cut would affect programs for the protection, promotion, education, and policy advisory of human rights, adding these are the "lifeblood" of the CHR.

Brosas said she supports the augmentation of the CHR's budget.

Limkaichong also said restoring the budget request will allow the Human Rights Violations Victims' Memorial Commission to construct the Freedom Memorial Museum, which is a "key element" of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

The commission, an attached agency of the CHR, was given ₱40.690 million under the 2024 NEP.