Senate approves CHR's P934-million budget for 2024

Lyza Aquino, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 21 2023 09:53 AM

Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File
Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Senate on Tuesday approved the Commission on Human Rights' (CHR) P934-million budget for next year, a week after deliberations were postponed due to the body's stance on abortion.

The Senate, during the plenary debates last November 14, deferred the deliberation after senators asked the commission for a clear stand on abortion, which CHR released 3 days after. 

CHR's budget sponsor Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said a part of the commission's statement stated, "The 1987 Constitution likewise provides for the full protection for the life of the mother and the unborn child." 

"It (CHR) is still against abortion, but only advocates for amendment for the law to provide, for extreme instances, medical termination for example for ectopic pregnancy, threatened abortion, and other diseases like cervical cancer and cancer of the uterus. All of that will endanger the life of the mother," he added. 

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, expressed his dismay regarding a video which circulated online last June and showed an official of the commission publicly urging him out to pass the SOGIE bill that seeks to criminalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 

Villanueva said CHR chairperson Atty. Richard Paat Palpal-latoc was aware of the statement issued by the official, but failed to review the status of the bill.

"Unfortunately, hindi n'yo pa po pala nabasa, pepetitionin nyo na itong representation. Hindi n'yo po ba bina-violate ang karapatan ng representasyon na ito?" the senator said. 

"Hindi niyo ba pwedeng madinig muna yung aking adhikain at panukalang batas na aking inihanin sa Senado bago po kayo magdesisyon na pepetisyunin nyo ko? Bago kayo magdesisyon na tatayo kayo sa entablado, yurakan ang aking pagkatao?" he continued. 

Villanueva earlier said SOGIE bill would not be a priority of the Senate and that he preferred a "more holistic and inclusive" anti-discrimination measure. 

The budget hearing lasted for almost two hours with Palpal-latoc eventually apologizing for the incident.

"We regret what the Senate felt about what happened about the petition, especially Senator Joel Villanueva. The CHR commits in improving its processes," Palpal-latoc said. 

"We are fully committed to work with the entire Senate in refining the SOGIE equality bill and we equally support the comprehensive anti-discrimination bill," he said. 

Aside from the approved budget of the CHR, the Senate also approved during the deliberations the proposed P38.8-million budget for the Human Rights Violations Victims' Memorial Commission. 

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