The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday decried the alleged threat made by lawmakers to deprive the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of its annual budget due to an official's position favoring the decriminalization of abortion.
"Threats by members of the Philippine Congress to defund the national human rights commission have resulted in its weakening of support for abortion rights," Bryony Lau, HRW's deputy Asia director, said in a statement.
"The Philippines needs an independent, well-funded national human rights body to address the most egregious rights violations in the country and protect the rights of all Filipinos."
The HRW issued the statement after Senator Jinggoy Estrada reportedly said the CHR will be given zero budget if it does not come up with a clear opposition against abortion.
This was after CHR executive director Jacqueline de Guia voiced support for legislation that will decriminalize abortion.
Estrada's position against abortion was backed by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, as well as Senators Alan Cayetano and Joel Villanueva.
Lau said by threatening the CHR's budget, "these lawmakers are trying to render the constitutionally mandated body useless."
CHR chairperson Richard Palpal-Latoc earlier clarified that the CHR is "against abortion, save for extreme circumstances."
Women's rights advocates in the Philippines have long fought for the decriminalization of abortion given there are findings that they are forced to undergo clandestine and unsafe conditions to get an abortion, putting themselves at serious risk.
The HRW argued that the Philippines, as a party to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, is obligated to ensure women's right to health and bodily autonomy, including making decisions around pregnancy and abortion. —Llanesca T. Panti/KBK, GMA Integrated News