Sisyphus’ Lament

CHR’s P1,000 budget and stupid activism

/ 07:13 AM September 18, 2017

SINGAPORE — The vote by 119 congressmen to slash the Commission on Human Rights’ (CHR) budget to P1,000 was shameful and reprehensible. But our uncritical reactions are equally alarming.

Late last Sept. 12, the House of Representatives voted 119-32 for this P1,000 budget. The internet went berserk with lengthy, elaborate discussions to crowdfund the CHR.


But the crisis was short-lived.

By morning, fellow columnist Manuel L. Quezon III and star ABS-CBN host Karen Davila confirmed senators’ reactions on Twitter. It was soon obvious that senators would cross party lines to uphold the CHR’s budget.


CHR staffers should hold their heads high. There is no greater affirmation of our country’s trust than this nonpartisan show of confidence.

But Facebook activists were counterproductive. Should not the immediate focus have been to cheer each senator who stood up for the CHR?

No, many idealistic, well-educated activists forgot it takes both the House and the Senate to pass a law. They did not know the House vote had no legal effect!

We had no idea what we were protesting — again.


When the Supreme Court Lagman decision upheld martial law, activists glorified Justice Marvic Leonen as the “lone dissenter,” down to his inexplicably tweeting excerpts before the decision was released.

This undermined the stronger dissents by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Justice Benjamin Caguioa. They were shortsightedly labeled partial dissenters solely because they accepted martial law in Lanao del Sur, where there is actual fighting. This boxed activists into Leonen’s extreme, indefensible positions.


And before the decision, activists focused on abstract anti-Marcos warnings instead of dissecting today’s Constitution. They, thus, astoundingly ignored Solicitor General Jose Calida’s concession that martial law now grants no new powers outside combat zones.

Activists cursed the 2016 Ocampo decision, which ruled 9-5 that no law prohibits deposed president Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. But, first, they strangely demonized the Supreme Court for a burial ordered by the president. Second, they cursed all nine majority justices, overlooking how four did not concur in the majority decision laced with pro-Marcos side comments.

Third, given four different dissents, they publicized none of them. They instead emphasized a “pantheon” law even after the dissenters rejected this as referring to a different cemetery.

This is neither new nor changing soon. Protests against the 2012 Cybercrime Act, for example, missed how internet libel is actually prosecuted under the 1930 Revised Penal Code.

Today, Sereno’s defenders frame that the impeachment complaint against her solely cites news clippings. But this is objectively false — footnotes in pages 18-30 cite facts from the Jardeleza and Aguinaldo Supreme Court decisions.

Our activism consistently degenerates from lofty ideas to baseless arguments. The greatest danger to writers is not an environment of intimidation. Rather, it is an environment where any argument will do, where activists lionize shallow Twitter-ready sound bites over actual logic.

I am outraged by how Frank Lobrigo’s “The privacy of communication” (Opinion, 9/16/17) blatantly misrepresents privacy doctrine. This argues Sen. Risa Hontiveros is liable for sharing pictures, taken by someone else, of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s text messages shown on his large smartphone screen. The texts discuss prosecuting her.

In our Supreme Court’s well-known 2013 Fortun case, a confidential disbarment against an Ampatuan massacre lawyer was leaked to and reported by the Inquirer and others. Carpio powerfully absolved media, ruling free speech trumps privacy in matters of public interest, such as the Ampatuan trial’s conduct.

The US Supreme Court’s 2001 Bartnicki case ruled similarly regarding an antiwiretapping law. It was prominently discussed during our 2005 “Hello, Garci” scandal.

It is impossible to credibly condemn Hontiveros without addressing these famous privacy decisions.

React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan,

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: CHR budget cut, Oscar Franklin Tan, Risa Hontiveros, Sisyphus’ Lament, Vitaliano Aguirre II, wiretapping issues
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2019 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.