Duterte drug war: Philippines cuts rights body’s budget to $20

Lawmakers in the Philippines have voted to give an annual budget of just 1,000 pesos ($20; £15) to the public body investigating the country’s controversial war on drugs.

The cut to the budget of the Commission on Human Rights was supported by a margin of 119 to 32 in Congress.

Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez labelled the commission “useless”.

But critics say the move is punishment for the body’s staunch criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drugs war.

Thousands have been killed since President Duterte launched the anti-drug crackdown last year. It aims to wipe out the drug trade in the Philippines, but has attracted international criticism over the number of deaths.

The Commission on Human Rights, which has been investigating the killings, initially requested a budget of 1.72bn pesos ($34m; £25m) for 2018, but the government proposed less than half of that.

On the second reading of the legislation, Congress voted for the figure to be cut to just 1,000 pesos, a massive cut from 2017’s budget of 749m pesos.

Speaking in a television interview, Mr Alvarez, said: “If you want to protect the rights of criminals, get your budget from the criminals.”

He then accused the commission of incompetence, saying: “Why should you get budget from the government and yet you are not doing your job?”

Congressman Edcel Lagman, who opposed the budget cut, said the president’s supporters in Congress were “virtually imposing the death penalty on a constitutionally created and mandated independent office”.

Although the motion still requires approval in the Senate, opponents say it is likely to be passed because President Duterte has a majority in the two chambers.

 

 

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