Commission on Human Rights Faces Zero Budget Over Abortion Support

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the Philippines being a secular state, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is at risk of receiving a “zero budget” next year as four male senators question the CHR’s stance supporting a bill that seeks to decriminalize abortion in the country.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano raised concerns during the Senate’s deliberations on the CHR’s 2024 budget on Nov. 14, highlighting the CHR’s position previously expressed by its executive director, Jacqueline de Guia.

Cayetano, identifying himself as a Christian, expressed discomfort with the CHR’s endorsement of abortion, citing Church teachings that consider it a “mortal sin.” He also referred to a provision in the 1987 Constitution, emphasizing the state’s responsibility to “protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

Despite the Philippines having the world’s most restrictive laws against abortion, a 2020 report from the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network revealed that an estimated 1.26 million Filipino women, including rape survivors, resorted to induced abortion. This alarming situation led to three women daily facing complications and losing their lives due to unsafe abortions.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has recommended the decriminalization of abortion for victims of rape and incest, as well as for women whose health is at risk due to their pregnancies.

Even Senator Jinggoy Estrada, the CHR’s budget sponsor, expressed his inability to support the CHR’s budget due to his staunch Catholic beliefs and disagreement with the CHR’s stance on abortion. In a press briefing, Estrada warned that the CHR might face a zero budget if it does not retract its support for abortion.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva joined their fellow male senators in opposing the bill that aimed to grant women, especially rape victims, the right to control their bodies and exemption from criminal liability.


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