Were Marcoleta's 'human rights' violated when he was dropped by his UP advisor?

Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta wants to know if his right to education was violated after he was dropped by his advisor as he was finishing his doctoral dissertation in 2017.

Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta during the CHR budget hearing on Sept. 15. (Screencap from House of Representatives Livestream)

Marcoleta, during the House Committee on Appropriations hearing for the Commission on Human Rights' (CHR) budget on Thursday, Sept. 15, shared an anecdote of an experience that has bothered him for years.

“I want to inform this committee that because of this position, yung (the) P1,000 budget. I was then doing my doctoral dissertation at the University of the Philippines (UP). Alam po ba ninyo na yung aking advisor iniwanan ako dahil sa aking ginawa (Did you know that my advisor dropped me because of what I did), did you know that?” Marcoleta asked CHR Executive Director Jacqueline De Guia.

During the plenary budget deliberations in 2017, Marcoleta moved that the CHR be allocated a budget of only P1,000. The House, at the time, approved the motion through voice vote.

“Mabuti na lang kasing tapang ako ni (It’s a good thing that I’m as brave as) Congressman Lagman. Natapos ko rin ang aking doctoral dissertation kahit di ako tinulungan (I finished my doctoral dissertation even if I had no help),” Marcoleta continued.

“Wala ba akong na-violate na human right doon (Was any of my human rights violated)? Whether for or against a particular issue, trabaho po namin yon eh (it’s our job),” the party-list solon asked.

De Guia acknowledged Marcoleta’s point and said that the CHR would look into the matter.

“Meron po tayong (We do have the) right to education and of course we would want to make sure that everyone is able to access that right,” she said.

Marcoleta is of the opinion that the CHR’s mandate and jurisdiction is to investigate human rights abuses perpetrated by both state actors or the government, and those perpetrated by non-state actors such as terrorist groups and criminal syndicates.

He cited this as the reason why he moved to reduce the CHR’s budget to P1,000 back in 2017.

However, fellow solon and human rights lawyer Lagman disagreed with him

“I don’t recall any law wherein the CHR is given jurisdiction over atrocities committed by non-state actors. These atrocities or violation of the law are within the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the proper courts,” Lagman said in his interpellation during the hearing.

“All definitions of human rights violations are limited to agents of the state and private persons or groups with the consent or acquiescence of the state...You do not have to please legislators by extending your jurisdiction and spreading so thinly your small budget,” he continued.

De Guia said “human rights thought is also evolving...There has been a widening of the understanding of human rights and what it pertains to... With the evolution of human rights we also look into other actors of society which have an effect on human rights, which the CHR must look into.”

The CHR asked for a budget of P1,646,103,000 for 2023. But, under the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP), they were granted only half the amount or P846,377,000. This is a decrease of P118,326,000 or 12.27 percent versus their 2022 enacted budget of P964,703,000.