Your editorial “Wrong signal” (9/18/17) misses the point and is simply wrong. It accuses the House of Representatives of using its power of the purse against the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), citing the agency’s P1,000 budget for 2018. The editorial omitted the fact that the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) received the same budget.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has made the rationale for the CHR budget cut clear: for failing to live up to its constitutional mandate to protect all Filipino citizens and not merely to guard against abuses of state agents. The ERC and NCIP received the same budget on the same principle. Clearly, this means the House did not single out the CHR.
In fact, the Speaker recently said even the budget of the Office of the President (OP) nearly suffered the same fate due to excessive delays, specifically on the administrative charges filed against the ERC chair, but was approved on condition the decision would be issued within two weeks. The Speaker has warned that the House may still object to the OP budget in the bicameral conference committee if the agency fails to fulfill its promise.
The editorial employed a logical “sleight of hand” by creating the impression that the House decision on the CHR budget is tied to the decrease in the inflow of foreign investments in the past four quarters — or at the very least the specter that it would exacerbate the situation. It’s ridiculous that a decision the House made this month can influence what started happening four quarters ago.
The Inquirer itself admitted that it’s just the House sending a strong message to the CHR, since the Senate normally restores an affected agency’s budget. Yet it proceeded to discuss the warning of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines that the CHR budget issue would make inviting more foreign investments difficult.
The Inquirer implies that the inflow of foreign investments in a country is largely dependent on the issue of human rights. That is simply a lie. It is dependent on a plethora of factors, including macroeconomic fundamentals, policy, and key infrastructure, among others. The downtrend simply tells us that while our country has solid macroeconomic fundamentals, we still have a lot to do to attract more investments.
And to a large extent the House, under the Speaker’s leadership, is doing its part in this effort. Among others, it passed the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion meant to fund the administration’s aggressive infrastructure program seen to spur more economic development. The House leadership is working hard to ensure the chamber can pass the same test it applied to the CHR, ERC and NCIP—the test of fulfilling their mandate.
By the same token, your editorial “Busyness in Congress” (9/16/17) implied that the House has not been doing its job of crafting laws, and came up with only a handful of laws in the last six months of 2016. Again, that is an outright lie.
In the first regular session of the 17th Congress from June 2016 up to June 2017, 210 bills were passed on third and final reading by the House and transmitted to the Senate for discussion. That’s an average of one bill passed on third reading for every two session days. These include bills that have become laws, such as those providing for the death penalty in drug-related cases; free irrigation; and the first phase of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program.
In fact, House members have been actively participating in lawmaking, as proven by the quorum declared in all 97 session days. House committee meetings are well-attended, whether to discuss pending bills or to conduct investigations in aid of legislation. Many of them work even during holidays and recess, showing that our current lawmakers are highly motivated to achieve results and are out to prove that they deserve the mandate of their constituents.
The editorial also claimed that the House did not act on the issue of the P6.4-billion “shabu” smuggled past the Bureau of Customs. The House committee on dangerous drugs led by Rep. Robert Ace Barbers immediately conducted an investigation of the case and has released a report recommending the filing of charges against resigned Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and other officials.