He stayed with us for more than five years, cooked dinner for us, washed our clothes, and took care of my siblings and me during those times when our parents were out working. After several years, he decided to leave out house, found a small house for rent in the nearby village, and married the daughter of the owner of the sari-sari store located at the corner of a block perpendicular to ours.
Twelve years later, he now has a 12-year-old daughter, two sons – a third grader and a five-year-old boy, and just recently, his wife gave birth to another baby boy. With his job as a casual carpenter and his wife being unemployed, I wonder where he shall get the money to support his children, how he shall send them to school at least until high school and provide for their daily needs.
The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines is vehemently opposing the passing of a bill in the lower house of the of the Congress called Reproductive Health and Population Development Act which would require governments down to the local level to provide free or low-cost reproductive health services, including condoms, birth control pills, tubal ligation and vasectomies. The bill, in case it becomes a law, would also mandate sex education in all schools, public and private, from fifth grade through high school.
Supporters of the bill cite urgent public health needs. A 2006 government survey, which interviewed 46,000 women, found that between 2000 and 2006, only half of Filipino women of reproductive age used birth control of any kind. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization based in the United States that researches reproductive health policy, 54 percent of the 3.4 million pregnancies in the Philippines in 2008 were unintended.
Most of those unintended pregnancies — 92 percent — resulted from not using birth control, the institute said, and the rest from birth control that failed. Those unintended pregnancies, the institute says, contributed to an estimated half-million abortions that year, despite a ban on the procedure. Most of the abortions are done clandestinely and in unsanitary conditions leading to deaths of mothers.
Birth control and related health services have long been available to those who can afford to pay for them through the private medical system, but 70 percent of the population is too poor and depends on heavily subsidized care. In 1991, prime responsibility for delivering public health services shifted from the central government to the local authorities, who have broad discretion over which services are dispensed.
But since the task of distributing these contraceptives to their intended beneficiaries, primarily the poor, is already devolved to the local government, pressure from the Roman Catholic Church stalled the distribution. Many communities responded by making birth control unavailable.
The population issue in the Philippines is a political one. The main opposition has come from the church and affiliated lay organizations, which say the proposed law would legalize abortion. And local politicians, adept at bootlicking, will do anything to get the support of the church especially now that the elections are fast approaching.
The population issue in the Philippines must be addressed now. The need to check on population is a national concern. The Philippine population, estimated to be at 98 million is one of the biggest Asia, growing at more than 2 percent annually, one of the highest rates in Asia.
That is 98 million Filipinos! More than half of that go hungry before they sleep, do not have access to social services like clean water, safe dwelling, and basic education.
I denounce these politically invertebrate politicians who give in to the pressure of the church. Their lack of political will is the reason why this country remains impoverished.
I denounce the Catholic Church in the Philippines for its dogmatism and bigotry. While the rest of the world is moving toward a progressive mode of thinking, the church in the Philippines has successfully framed the Filipino thinking inside its century-old, irrelevant teachings on population reminiscent of the Dark Ages.
I am aware that our country’s demographic issue does not only concern the church but also the education of the populace regarding sex and responsible parenthood, that providing the people good education and equal opportunities will eventually lead to lower population growth rate as seen in western countries. We can all agree that this has to be addressed now. And if only the Catholic Church can leave the rein of government to the state.
Source: Conde, C. Bill to Increase Access to Contraception Is Dividing Filipinos, The New York Times. October 25, 2009.