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Politics

Body investigating Duterte war on drugs allocated $20 for 2018

Congress rejects initial budget for Commission on Human Rights

CLIFF VENZON, Nikkei staff writer | Philippines

MANILA -- The Philippine Congress has allocated a budget totaling 1,000 pesos ($20) to the country's Commission on Human Rights -- an independent body investigating alleged police brutality linked to President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

Voting 119-32 on Tuesday, the House of Representatives, in which Duterte's allies hold a supermajority, rejected a proposed budget of around 650 million pesos for the commission for 2018. 

That figure could be salvaged by a bicameral conference committee. The Senate is also deliberating Duterte's proposed 3.77 trillion peso budget for next year. At least five senators have vowed to fight the commission's corner.

The vote underscores the mounting pressure on the commission, which has launched investigations into alleged summary executions carried out by the police as part of Duterte's controversial campaign.  

Since Duterte came to power on June 30 last year, thousands of people suspected of involvement in the drug trade -- many of them small-time users and peddlers -- have been killed, drawing criticisms from local and international human rights organizations.

At a U.N. meeting in Geneva in May, dozens of countries called for an investigation into extrajudicial killings and for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

The U.S. last week offered $2 million to assist with anti-drug campaigns centered on public health and community-based interventions instead of the violent crackdown. 

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said commission Chair Chito Gascon must resign if the agency wants a bigger budget, Commissioner Gwendolyn Gana told local media. 

The commission was created under the 1987 constitution. It is mandated to probe violations of civil and political rights, with marginalized individuals and sectors as a priority. 

Duterte has had some choice words for anyone criticizing his campaign, including former U.S. President Barack Obama and former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

He has also been quick to blast the commission itself. "You are better abolished," he said at a public speech last July 24. He later dismissed his remarks as a joke. 

Social networks have been flooded with angry reactions. One Twitter user called Congress' move an "assault on the underpinnings of our democracy." Another said it was like "giving allowance to a college student." 

Chairman Gascon said he will defend the budget in the Senate. "The [commission] will continue to operate so long as the constitution operates," he told reporters.

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