Many poor Filipinas have died due to unsafe abortions, senatorial candidate Luke Espiritu said Wednesday, explaining why even at the risk of losing votes, he would push to decriminalize the act and give women the choice to decide over their bodies.
Espiritu, the labor leader who became an overnight star after roasting his more popular rivals in a televised debate, said that as a man, he shouldn't be speaking up against a woman's bodily autonomy.
In predominantly Catholic Philippines, abortion has been prohibited for over a century, leaving about 1,000 Filipino women dead each year due to unsafe abortions.
"You see, women's day was yesterday. Women, poor women in our country, have died of abortions done through unhealthy methods, and they have [only] exercised their choice over their own bodies, as to what to do with their own bodies, which is also tied to their future," he told ANC.
For Espiritu, women who put themselves through abortions do so with their future, including that of their family's, in mind. "If they had children [who] will be born into poverty, that's even more tragic," he added.
Abortion is not murder, Espiritu says, noting how society has controlled women's bodies "far too long" and that he, as a man, does not have the right to tell women what they can and cannot do.
"So, it's the women's choice and sometimes, society has predetermined what a woman should choose. We have controlled women's bodies far too long since the ancient times, and we have values dating back to the middle ages controlling women's minds, controlling women's bodies, telling women when to reproduce, telling women what to think, what to wear, telling women to sit, telling women their limitations," he said.
"I am a man—what right do I have to tell a woman what to do with their body? Ang katawan ng babae, hindi 'yan makina ah. 'Hindi 'yan makina na anak nang anak na parang hindi napupudpod. Hindi 'yan makina. 'Yung reproductive health nila, dapat may control sila 'dun," he added.
Espiritu, who is running with presidential candidate Leody de Guzman, is also for the SOGIE bill and same-sex marriage. He said unlike trapos (traditional politicians), he would not compromise his views despite the risks of losing votes, acknowledging how controversial his stances would seem to some segments of the electorate.
"Others will perhaps agree but they will try to mitigate what they're gonna say. They're gonna say, 'ah you know, i'm just for civil unions', but then, it's a half-hearted statement, it's pandering both to those who are pro and those who are con," he said.
"If you want people, again, who behave like trapos, who are insincere and not genuine, not clear in their stances, it is up to you. But I am not a trapo, I will definitely stand by my convinctions no matter what," he added.