Commission on Human Rights Faces Budget Scrutiny Over Abortion Support

Photo credit: Philippine Star

Amidst debates on the decriminalization of abortion in the Philippines, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is at risk of a “zero budget” for the next year. Four male senators, including Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, questioned CHR’s support for a bill advocating abortion rights, citing concerns about the commission’s stance conflicting with religious beliefs and constitutional provisions.

During the Senate’s deliberations on CHR’s 2024 budget on November 14, Cayetano, identifying as a Christian, criticized CHR’s position on abortion, deeming it contradictory to Church teachings, which consider abortion a “mortal sin.” He referenced the 1987 Constitution’s provision emphasizing the state’s duty to protect the lives of both mothers and unborn children from conception.

Despite the Philippines having some of the world’s most stringent abortion laws, an estimated 1.26 million Filipino women, including rape survivors, resorted to induced abortions in 2020, often under unsafe conditions. Advocates argue that decriminalizing abortion is essential, particularly for victims of rape and incest, and women whose health is endangered by their pregnancies.

Even CHR’s budget sponsor, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, expressed reservations, stating that as a devout Catholic, he could no longer support CHR’s budget if it continued to endorse abortion. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva echoed these sentiments, opposing the bill that sought to grant women, especially rape victims, autonomy over their bodies and exemption from criminal liability.