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Coercing the CHR

It’s the politicians’ weapon of choice whenever someone or some institution dares cross them and oppose their whims and their self-arrogated power and privilege.

This time it’s the Commission on Human Rights getting the squeeze by those in Congress who are jostling to outdo each other in brown-nosing President Rodrigo Duterte. These lackeys know that by doing so they can get their share of funds for projects in their districts.

Top House honcho Pantaleon Alvarez wants the CHR to get only P1,000 from the P3.7- trillion 2018 national budget. He has raised the hackles of the minority group of Edcel Lagman, Lito Atienza, Gary Alejano, Emmi de Jesus and Raul Daza. These dedicated congressman voiced their opposition against the onerous proposal to slash the CHR budget.

Atienza, Lagman et al denounced the House proposal as effectively abolishing the Commission on Human Rights. The outnumbered opposition in the House found support in the Senate where Senator Ping Lacson vowed to junk the House proposal.

“Reducing the CHR budget to a token P1,000 a year is illegal and a blatant abuse of power,” said Buhay Party-List Representative Atienza, one of the most vocal members of Congress who speak out on issues inimical to public interest.

Alas, Atienza’s voice and that of the few remaining opposition are drowned out by the sheer number of the administration’s supermajority coalition in the House.

Netizens have also expressed their outrage over the brazen tactic of the administration to silence the CHR, which is one of the most outspoken critics of Duterte’s brutal war on drugs and the alleged extrajudicial killing of suspects. Many, if not most, of these incidents happen in impoverished and depressed neighborhoods. The most recent of these alleged EJK was the case of 17-year-old student Kian de los Santos. Three Caloocan cops have been charged with his death when CCTV film footage showed them dragging away Kian. This was contradictory to the police version the victim fought and fired a gun at the arresting police operatives.

If at all, Kian de los Santos gave a human face to the other faceless victims of summary executions by police. Because the police have gotten away with impunity over these summary executions, the victims become merely statistics, filed away as cold cases.

The outrage over the high number of casualties has also drawn the international community’s condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union and other human rights watch groups. The plan to emasculate the CHR budget is in stark contrast to Duterte’s generous pay increases of policemen at the forefront of the war on drugs.

On another front in the government’s sweeping move to silence its critics, the conscripted Congress, notably the judiciary committee, also ruled as sufficient in form and substance the impeachment case against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Yes, this is the same House judiciary committee that was quick to dismiss the impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo Party-List Rep. Alejano against a certain Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

There is also a move to unseat Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

If Chief Justice Sereno is impeached, the Commission on Human Rights is abolished, and Carpio Morales is removed, who else would dare criticize President Duterte? And to think the man has not even declared martial law nationwide. Yet he is already exercising vast and awesome powers that should be ringing alarm bells, warning the public to be vigilant.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has dared go up against Digong but the President has threatened to “destroy Trillanes if he destroys me.”

So who makes the first move? Duterte with a preemptive strike, or Trillanes pulling another military coup? Either move is not good for the country.

Our world has indeed become a dangerous place.

Aside from the man-made disaster, the forces of nature are also causing havoc to the environment and people’s lives.

I was on a sabattical in the United States for two weeks. I thought I would get relief from the daily dose of TV news reporting on the crime wave and the constant coverage of death and destruction. However, the back-to-back hurricanes that struck in Texas and Florida and the 8.1 earthquake that killed hundreds in Mexico is shuddering. I watched with horror the news on TV how Hurricanes Harvey (category 4) wrought destruction on the Texas gulf cities including Corpus Christie, Rockport and Houston.

And then, even before Texas had recovered from Harvey, Hurricane Irma (category 5) slammed Florida, sending hundreds of thousands of residents fleeing the hurricane’s path along Key West, Key Largo, Miami, Daytona, Jacksonville, Naples, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers.

These are all prime beach front property. Buyers of these houses and condominium tower apartments invested money and until Hurricane Irma came along last week were settled for life. But now many of them are unloading at fire-sale prices. Or should I say hurricane sale prices?

TV footage showed rooftops pried off by the hurricane’s nearly 200-mile-per-hour winds. The condo units are still standing but their wide window panes were smashed by the hurricane’s fury. Palm trees were uprooted.

Florida was a picture of paradise lost.

Topics: Commission on Human Rights , Congress , President Rodrigo Duterte , Pantaleon Alvarez
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