CHR budget stalled over exec’s abortion decriminalization stand

(GMA NEWS) The Senate has deferred the approval of the Commission on Human Rights’ (CHR) P944-million proposed budget for 2024 due to the body’s stand favoring the decriminalization of abortion.advertisement

It was Senator Alan Peter Cayetano who raised the issue of abortion during the plenary debates on the 2024 national budget, citing the statements madeby CHR Executive Director Jacqueline De Guia backing the decriminalization of abortion.

De Guia, through Senator Jinggoy Estrada—who defended the budget of the CHR—confirmed that she made the statement but explained that it was issued “during the 5th Commission which was headed by then-Commissioner Chito Gaston during the Aquino administration.”

Estrada said De Guia was the CHR’s spokesperson when the statement was made.

“According to Ms. Jacqueline here, who confirmed to me that she gave the statement that she does not support abortion, she only supports the decriminalization of abortion in so far as it affects the life of the mother. And according to them, many women die because of unsafe abortions and it affects the life of the mother,” Estrada said.

The lawmaker said he is against abortion, being a devout Catholic.

“Personally, I’m against abortion. I am a devout Catholic and it is against the teachings of the Church and it is penalized under existing laws and if ever the CHR is in favor of it, of the abortion, I will be the first one to oppose or go against it,” he said.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri likewise expressed his opposition against abortion.

“May I also put on record that this representation, the Senate President of the Philippines, is vehemently against abortion at any stage. I just want to…put in the records of this august chamber that there are people who are willing to fight for life not for death, particularly defenseless children who have no opportunity to have a voice of their own,” Zubiri said.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva followed his colleagues’ manifestations and asked if it is the position of the commission or “just a position of any Tom Dick or Harry trying to influence the whole world, this country that it is indeed the position of the CHR.”

Estrada said the “present commission has not taken a stand with regard to the statement made by [De Guia].”

Estrada manifested that if the position of the CHR is pro-abortion, he will not defend the budget of the commission.

Cayetano then explained the repercussions of De Guia’s previous statement and said that the message that other countries got is that “finally the Philippines is loosening up because the CHR is asking to decriminalize abortion.”

He likened De Guia to a Philippine ambassador who relays the government’s stand to other countries on various issues.

“I do not mind opinions, it is their right, especially in contemporary human rights issues. But as far as abortion is concerned, it is settled in our Philippine Constitution, Article 2, Section 12, the state recognizes the sanctity of family life, and shall protect the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception,” he said.

“Meaning, the executive director of a very sensitive commission is giving her own opinion which is contrary to the Philippine Constitution. If she was an ambassador, she would’ve been recalled and reprimanded,” he added.

Cayetano then said that they “cannot fund a commission that is espousing something that is outside of what they can do.”

“Pag sinabi mong i-decriminalize, ‘yun din yon eh. Kasi pag di na criminal e di pwede,” he said.

De Guia’s statement was on the decriminalization of abortion, not legalization.

While the CHR clarified that they have no position on abortion and that they value the right to life under the Philippine constitution, Cayetano said he is not satisfied with the body’s answer.

“This is a state policy. I will have a big problem if a commission under the constitution has a different policy or different principle from that that is declared the state policy. They are free to advocate it again if they leave the commission but while they are in the commission, they are like ambassadors, they are bound by the Philippine constitution,” Cayetano said.

Later on, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva suggested the CHR sit down and make a position on the issue before the Senate resumes with the deliberations of their 2024 budget.

“I think the commission should be given time to meet and come up with position on this because it’s very clear… and if the commission cannot come up with a position as a commission… perhaps we should abort the deliberations of their budget so that they will have time to meet up and come up with a solid position,” Villanueva said.

Estrada backed Villanueva’s suggestion and made a formal motion to defer the debates on the budget of the CHR.

“I support the statement or the manifestation of the majority leader to defer the deliberations of the budget until otherwise this commission gives a stand with regard to abortion,” he said.

“If they continue to espouse the decriminalization of abortion or if they support the abortion per se, I’m sorry I will be unable to defend this budget,” he added.

Zubiri said, “I will not be able to approve the budget either.”

Before the motion was approved, Estrada told the CHR not to blame the previous leadership on the statements made by De Guia. — BM, GMA Integrated News