During the Senate plenary interpellations on the 2020 budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Monday, November 18, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go scrutinized the budget of the commission stating that CHR seemingly values the rights and lives of drug criminals over those of their innocent victims.
“Why does it seem that the CHR only focuses now on the due process and rights of drug lords and ruthless criminals? Paano naman ang mga inosenteng biktima ng mga kriminal na lulong sa iligal na droga?” Go asked CHR Chair Chito Gascon who was allowed to answer the senator directly via a motion to suspend the rules of the Senate so that the sponsor need not answer on behalf of the CHR.
“Isang tanong lang po, ano ang mas importante sa inyo: buhay ng inosenteng Pilipino? O buhay ng mga kriminal?” he added.
Urging neutrality from the commission, Go then asked the CHR not to be selective when conducting their investigations on the alleged human rights violations in the War on Drugs.
“I’m all for due process and investigating abuses. I’m all for accountability. Pero sana, hindi selective,” Go told members of the Senate.
“There are two sides (of the) fence, tingnan natin parehas. ‘Wag tayong mag-focus sa isang side lang kasi there are always multiple versions of the truth. We must be neutral,” the senator added.
The CHR then assured Go that they do not take sides and will be neutral in their investigations, saying that the commission “is an independent, nonpartisan oversight institution”.
As the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, Go questioned how the CHR utilizes its budget, asking “How much of the budget of CHR is being used to defend criminals? Meron pa bang natitira to defend innocent victims?”
Highlighting that part of the functions of the CHR is to investigate “all forms of human rights violations including civil and political rights, whether they are committed by public officers or by civilians or rebels,” the senator then asked why the commission seemingly focuses on human rights of drug criminals rather than their innocent victims.
“Napapansin ko lang, mas hinahabol niyo ‘yung law enforcers tuwing meron silang napapatay na mga kriminal. Even the President of the Philippines ay hinahabol ninyo, binabatikos ninyo tuwing may namamatay na kriminal.
“How much of the PhP863,138,000 will be used by the CHR for the investigation of all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights?” he added.
Meanwhile, Go pointed out during his statement that the government’s strong stance and campaign against illegal drugs has been met positively, especially by families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who make up a significant portion of those affected by the drug menace.
“These (OFW) families have been telling us that the fact this administration is taking a hardline stance to address the age-old drug problem is good for them, as they know that, finally, the government is stepping in to stop this menace,” Go explained, stating that the drug war is one of the reasons OFWs favor President Duterte.
“Hindi mababayaran ang lungkot na nararamdaman nila na malayo sa kanilang pamilya pero pinipili nilang ipagpatuloy ang mga pagtatrabaho para sa kinabukasan. Ang sa akin lang, ayokong masira ng droga ang mga pamilyang ito. Even just one broken family due to drugs is one too many,” Go added.
Go then asked how much of CHR’s budget will be used “to assist and help these private individuals attain justice and mend their shattered families to be whole again?”
The senator also questioned how much of the commission’s budget will be allotted to provide legal aid and preventive measures “to the underprivileged Filipino residing in the Philippines and abroad whose human rights have been violated or need protection,” especially those involved in the illegal drug abuse.
Ending his statement, Go questioned the inaction of the CHR in resolving drug-related human rights violations in the country in the past.
“Did you do anything to help stop the drug problem before? Napakarami ng human rights abuses due to illegal drugs. Alam nating lahat iyan. Pero bakit parang lumalabas na nabuhay lang ang CHR these past few years? Nasaan sila dati?”