From the New Year Message, Peace and Prosperity to One and All:
Friday, December 31, 2010
The Christmas and New Year Statements of Bishop Nereo Odchimar, President of the CBCP, versus the RH Bill and the ideology behind it
From the Christmas 2010 Message, Greetings in the Newly-Born Messiah:
From the New Year Message, Peace and Prosperity to One and All:
Nevertheless, the events in human history can sometimes obscure our faith in Him who is the Prince of Peace, Lord of Consolation, and Incarnate Hope. The threat of war, political unrest, and armed conflicts put nations in constant fear. In our country, acquiring peace in Muslim Mindanao seems almost hopeless while insurgency, coup attempts, and crimes such as extrajudicial killing, terrorism and the like continue to interrupt the smooth progress of national affairs. And the most glaring among others is that unpeace in the mother’s womb. With the approval of RH Bill, a woman’s womb can be a ferocious threat to those who are yet to be born. In the face of difficult situations, we can only ask: How can we speak of good tidings where poverty is almost all around the place? What is left in the store for the marginalized, the unprivileged, the oppressed, and the poor?
However ironic it may seem, everyone can still gladly sing: Joy to the world the Lord is come! We marvel at how the street children, the prisoners, the people in Payatas and Smokey Mountain, and the indigenous tribes could sing their heart out to the tune of Christmas Jingles. Armed Forces have their camps decorated with Christmas trees and lanterns; insurgents leave their guns in the fox hole. Conflicting parties seek reconciliation and most often, ceasefire and peace-talks befall on Christmas. Many a great wonderful thing happens in this most anticipated season of the year. Lonely men and women cheer up; Bad people turn good; Self-seeking ones become Santa Clauses.
Here, we are made to see the irresistible power of Christ to change the face of the world according to His own plan—“For I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow (Jer. 31:13).” If we look at the stable at Bethlehem in its utter ordinariness, it reflects the same indigence, misery, and confusion in the world; but, the very presence of the Holy Child laid in the manger signifies the overwhelming transformation of that empty place into a beautiful belen.
From the New Year Message, Peace and Prosperity to One and All:
There have been measures led by the government and by some other private institutions that fight poverty. The most conspicuous among others is the campaign against corruption. I would like to agree that corruption is the radical cause of the misery of Filipinos. Therefore, it is but only proper to reject what is base and dishonorable! Let us then intensify and sustain this righteous effort of eradicating graft and corruption.
However, there are other measures that apparently disagree to the very conscience of many Christian Filipinos. There are those who believe that poverty is often a consequence of demographic change. For this reason, there are international campaigns afoot to reduce birth-rates, sometimes using methods that often fail to respect even the right to life. The Holy Father Benedict XXVI, in his address on the occasion of the World Day of Peace, wrote: “The extermination of millions of unborn children in the name of the fight against poverty actually constitutes the destruction of the poorest of all human beings. And yet it remains the case that in 1981, around 40% of the world’s population was below the threshold of absolute poverty, while today that percentage has been reduced by as much as half, and whole peoples have escaped from poverty despite experiencing substantial demographic growth.” This implies that we can combat poverty even without depopulation.
“See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?... (Is. 43:19).” The word of the Lord spoken by the prophet Isaiah opens us to the reality of God who initiates the work of transformation. God is doing something new—perhaps something better than what we see around. This boldly expresses God’s loving concern with the plight of His people. Here, God assures us that social transformation can happen. Peace and prosperity is within our reach. And the certainty of its realization lies in the fact that we are not alone in this task. God is with us!
By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star)
Updated December 31, 2010 12:00 AM
Last Tuesday was the Holy Innocents Day, when King Herod ordered the killing of all the children in Bethlehem because the Magi did not return to him to inform him where the Messiah was in Bethlehem. The poor innocent little children of Bethlehem became the first Martyrs who died in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, executed by a blood thirsty king who thought that since he ruled the land, no one should be a threat to his authority, not even the Messiah whose coming was foretold by the Prophets. Alas, it is the poor and innocent children who died in the hands of kings and in today’s times, presidents or prime ministers.
But that story was 2,000 years ago and King Herod and the kingdom of Israel have long vanished, replaced by a democratic form of government. But today, we live in a time where there are so many types of Herods, who still kill the poor innocents. One of them is Rep. Edcel Lagman, the principal author of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. If this bill passes, it would allow abortifacient contraceptives to flood our nation and kill a lot more innocent lives, more than King Herod could kill in 50 lifetimes! This is why we are asking Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III not to support the RH Bill as the deaths of those poor innocent children would be on his hands.
We have been fighting the RH Bill from its former versions for many years now and I would like to believe that the advocacy of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) this year to educate our faithful flock have begun to make good inroads in this struggle for our people to better understand the dangers of supporting the RH bill.
In his Christmas message, CBCP President Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag did not mince his words when he said “The passage of the RH Bill would lead to the womb becoming a “ferocious threat” to the unborn children.” He equated the RH Bill to extrajudicial killings, the insurgency and terrorism. These are strong words indeed, especially coming from the CBCP President… but on the other hand, I do concur that killing a defenseless child, like that nine-year-old boy who was killed together with the 10 soldiers is an act of terrorism or an extra-judicial killing. What else could it be?
What Bishop Odchimar said was, “In our country, acquiring peace in Muslim Mindanao seems almost hopeless while insurgency, coup attempts, and crimes such as extrajudicial killings, terrorism and the like continue to interrupt the smooth progress of national affairs.” Bishop Odchimar further said, “There is “unpeace in the womb.” I submit that in this sick nation of ours, there’s just too much killings, which is why we are under what people call a culture of death! Should we add the RH Bill in this cauldron of more death and destruction of innocent lives? I think not!
As expected of him, Rep. Lagman chastised the CBCP calling their statements as “The height of antediluvian hyperbole”. To be perfectly honest, this word sent me scrambling to my dictionary, which means, “as one belonging to the biblical flood, antiquated or prehistoric.” He can call the Catholic Church any names he wants, but whether he likes it or not, as our Lord Jesus Christ prophesied, “The gates of Gehenna shall not prevail upon her.”
In my book, Rep. Lagman is one fellow who thinks he can destroy the Catholic Church… unfortunately others who are more powerful than him have tried, Then Lagman went on haranguing the Catholic Church saying “The history of Christianity is so engulfed in terrorism from the persecution of early Christians to the counter-persecution of both heretics and believers to preserve the hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church particularly during the Inquisitions. These acts of church terrorism extended to the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period which was dominated by the Church and are perpetuated today with threats of excommunication against perceived religious dissenters like RH and pro-women advocates.”
As a Catholic, we do not deny that those things happened in the past, which sent the late Great Pope John Paul II asking for forgiveness for the past sins that the Catholic Church has committed. But that’s in the past now. The Catholic Church is a different one from what Lagman detailed to us.
In his defense of the RH bill, Rep Lagman said, “The RH bill is far from being ‘terroristic’ since it is pro-quality of life. It saves lives by greatly reducing the incidence of abortions and decreases maternal and infant mortality even as it welcomes the wanted and properly-timed birth of children.”
Rep. Lagman’s statement only reveals that all unwanted pregnancies are unwelcome! No doubt, Rep. Lagman would lie, cajole or con anyone who listens to get support for the RH Bill. But his response to the CBCP proves that he is desperate, despite all the propaganda he has spent to say that Filipinos support the RH Bill, which is sheer and unabashed falsehood!
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For e-mail responses to this article, write to email@example.com or vsbobita@ gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith publishes the official interpretation of the Pope's remarks on condoms
From the Vatican website:
Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
On the trivilization of sexuality
Regarding certain interpretations of "Light of the World"
Following the publication of the interview-book Light of the World by Benedict XVI, a number of erroneous interpretations have emerged which have caused confusion concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding certain questions of sexual morality. The thought of the Pope has been repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words – a meaning which is evident to anyone who reads the entire chapters in which human sexuality is treated. The intention of the Holy Father is clear: to rediscover the beauty of the divine gift of human sexuality and, in this way, to avoid the cheapening of sexuality which is common today.
Some interpretations have presented the words of the Pope as a contradiction of the traditional moral teaching of the Church. This hypothesis has been welcomed by some as a positive change and lamented by others as a cause of concern – as if his statements represented a break with the doctrine concerning contraception and with the Church’s stance in the fight against AIDS. In reality, the words of the Pope – which specifically concern a gravely disordered type of human behaviour, namely prostitution (cf. Light of the World, pp. 117-119) – do not signify a change in Catholic moral teaching or in the pastoral practice of the Church.
As is clear from an attentive reading of the pages in question, the Holy Father was talking neither about conjugal morality nor about the moral norm concerning contraception. This norm belongs to the tradition of the Church and was summarized succinctly by Pope Paul VI in paragraph 14 of his Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, when he wrote that "also to be excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means." The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought. On this issue the Pope proposes instead – and also calls the pastors of the Church to propose more often and more effectively (cf. Light of the World, p. 147) – humanly and ethically acceptable ways of behaving which respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meaning of every conjugal act, through the possible use of natural family planning in view of responsible procreation.
On the pages in question, the Holy Father refers to the completely different case of prostitution, a type of behaviour which Christian morality has always considered gravely immoral (cf. Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 27; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2355). The response of the entire Christian tradition – and indeed not only of the Christian tradition – to the practice of prostitution can be summed up in the words of St. Paul: "Flee from fornication" (1 Cor 6:18). The practice of prostitution should be shunned, and it is the duty of the agencies of the Church, of civil society and of the State to do all they can to liberate those involved from this practice.
In this regard, it must be noted that the situation created by the spread of AIDS in many areas of the world has made the problem of prostitution even more serious. Those who know themselves to be infected with HIV and who therefore run the risk of infecting others, apart from committing a sin against the sixth commandment are also committing a sin against the fifth commandment – because they are consciously putting the lives of others at risk through behaviour which has repercussions on public health. In this situation, the Holy Father clearly affirms that the provision of condoms does not constitute "the real or moral solution" to the problem of AIDS and also that "the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality" in that it refuses to address the mistaken human behaviour which is the root cause of the spread of the virus. In this context, however, it cannot be denied that anyone who uses a condom in order to diminish the risk posed to another person is intending to reduce the evil connected with his or her immoral activity. In this sense the Holy Father points out that the use of a condom "with the intention of reducing the risk of infection, can be a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality." This affirmation is clearly compatible with the Holy Father’s previous statement that this is "not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection."
Some commentators have interpreted the words of Benedict XVI according to the so-called theory of the "lesser evil". This theory is, however, susceptible to proportionalistic misinterpretation (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis splendor, n. 75-77). An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed. The Holy Father did not say – as some people have claimed – that prostitution with the use of a condom can be chosen as a lesser evil. The Church teaches that prostitution is immoral and should be shunned. However, those involved in prostitution who are HIV positive and who seek to diminish the risk of contagion by the use of a condom may be taking the first step in respecting the life of another – even if the evil of prostitution remains in all its gravity. This understanding is in full conformity with the moral theological tradition of the Church.
In conclusion, in the battle against AIDS, the Catholic faithful and the agencies of the Catholic Church should be close to those affected, should care for the sick and should encourage all people to live abstinence before and fidelity within marriage. In this regard it is also important to condemn any behaviour which cheapens sexuality because, as the Pope says, such behaviour is the reason why so many people no longer see in sexuality an expression of their love: "This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being" (Light of the World, p. 119).
Friday, December 17, 2010
Behind the scenes on the 1986 Constitutional Commission's declaration that conception -- and therefore life -- begins at fertilization
(See this as well: An important legal resource: the 1986 Constitutional Commission declares that life begins at fertilization.)
By BERNARDO M. VILLEGAS
December 16, 2010, 11:00pm
MANILA, Philippines – In the Philippine Constitution of 1987, conception is defined as fertilization, the moment the egg is fertilized by the sperm. This was the majority decision (32 to 8) of the members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 convoked by the late President Corazon Aquino. This majority decision was made after the most thorough debate in which some of the most articulate members of the Commission raised their objections, bringing up some of the issues that are now being revived by the population control advocates. Some raised the issue of personhood. They claimed that the fertilized ovum is not yet a person, even quoting Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Others maintained that the fertilized ovum is not yet viable and, therefore, cannot be considered a human being.
Despite all these objections, the majority decided that conception should be defined as the moment of fertilization.
I was the sponsor of the provision and had to answer all the objections. For the sake of constitutionalists, lawyers, and Supreme Court justices, let me describe how I defended the position that the fertilized ovum is already a human being. To the question, is the fertilized ovum alive? My answer was: “Biology categorically says yes, the fertilized ovum is alive. First of all, like all living organisms, it takes in nutrients which it processes by itself. It begins doing this upon fertilization. Secondly, as it takes in these nutrients, it grows from within. Thirdly, it multiplies itself at a geometric rate in the continuous process of cell division. All these processes are vital signs of life. Therefore, there is no question that biologically the fertilized ovum has life.”
To the second question “Is it human?,” my answer was: “Genetics gives an equally categorical ‘yes.’ At the moment of conception, the nuclei of the ovum and the sperm rupture. As this happens, 23 chromosomes from the ovum combine with 23 chromosomes of the sperm to form a total of 46 chromosomes. A chromosome count of 46 is found only – and I repeat, only – in human cells. Therefore, the fertilized ovum is human. Since these two questions have been answered affirmatively, we must conclude that if the fertilized ovum is both alive and human, then, as night follows day, it must be human life. Its nature is human.
It must be stressed that the question about the fertilized ovum being human has to be settled by the natural sciences. In contrast, the question about personhood, that is, when does God put a soul into the fetus goes beyond the natural sciences. It is a philosophical or theological issue and cannot be settled by resorting to empirical evidence. That is why when Commissioner Blas Ople asked me whether there is in jurisprudence anything that will help determine the approximate moment of conception, I replied that only natural sciences have the answer. In my reply, I said: “I would like to read this specific statement by natural scientists about when human life begins. This is taken from the Handbook on Abortion by Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Wilke. The most distinguished scientific meeting of recent years that considered this question of when human life begins was the First International Conference on Abortion held in Washington, DC, in October, 1967. It brought together authorities from around the world in the fields of medicine, law, ethics, and social sciences. They met together in a think tank for several days. The first major question considered by the medical group was: When does human life begin? The medical group was composed of biochemists, professors of obstetrics and gynecology, geneticists, and so forth, and was represented proportionately as to academic discipline, race, and religion. For example, only 20 percent were Catholics. Their almost unanimous conclusion, 19 to 1, was as follows: ‘The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of sperm and egg which is the fertilization or, at least the blastocyst stage and the birth of the infant at which point we could say that this was not a human life (the blastocyst stage is shortly after fertilization and would account for twinning).”
It was, therefore, the intent of the large majority of the framers of the Constitution of 1987 to define conception as fertilization. No amount of further debate will change that. Only a charter change can modify that conclusion. It is, therefore, futile for the population control advocates to suggest that conception should be defined as implantation. They will have to move for an amendment of the Constitution for their view to prosper. In the meantime, any contraceptive device (e.g. the “morning after” pill, the IUD, etc.) that can be medically demonstrated to be abortifacient, i.e. killing the fertilized ovum before implantation, will always be declared unconstitutional, whether or not the RH bill is passed. As far as the present Constitution is concerned, attacking the fertilized ovum is killing a human life. No amount of philosophizing can change that. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away) By Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star)
Updated December 10, 2010 12:00 AM
Dragging the religious differences among the various religious communities into the RH bill controversy is misleading. It is true that in our pluralistic society, there are Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists with differing moral convictions regarding the use of artificial contraceptives. But the controversy surrounding the RH bill is not so much about whether it is contrary to the religious beliefs and moral convictions of a particular sect or religious denomination. It is more about whether the bill violates the law — of man and of nature.
Basically, man-made law is “a general rule of external human action enforced by a sovereign political authority”. It is “a rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power in the state, commanding what is right and prohibiting what is wrong” (Bouvier’s Law Dictionary). It is, as simply but comprehensively defined by St. Thomas Aquinas, “an ordinance of reason promulgated by a competent authority for the sake of the common good”. Evidently, the essential element of law is the common good. So the basic question should be: is the use of contraceptives for the sake of the common good?
The data gathered by western social scientists, some of whom are atheists or pro-choice advocates show the damaging effects of contraceptives, abortifacient or non-abortifacient. They admit that the use of contraceptives has given rise to “contraceptive mentality” which has caused “a rise in infidelity, breakdown of families and trouble in relationship between the sexes, a lessening of respect for women by men, female impoverishment, and single motherhood”. The findings also reveal “the causal link between contraception and abortion” and “increase in both illegitimacy and abortion”. Indeed they found in China, “the coercive use of reproductive health technologies like the forced abortion and sterilization practice”. Medical science has also found that these contraceptives are injurious to health as some of them cause cancer and other sickness.
Hence it is quite clear that the use of contraceptives harms rather than promotes the common good, and therefore violates human law. Indeed it violates our Constitution which mandates the State “to protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution”; “to protect the life of the unborn from conception” (Section 12, Article II); and to protect and promote the right to health of the people (Section 15).
Natural law on the other hand is knowable by all persons independent of their religious beliefs because it is the sum of rules that “follow directly from the nature of the human person”; it is the “norm derived from human nature”. One of the most natural acts of a human person is to engage in sexual intercourse which has for its natural consequence the possible transmission of life when man’s sperm cell may be united with and may fertilize the egg released from one of the woman’s ovaries to form a living human embryo. Contraceptives however interfere with this natural process by preventing the union of the sperm and the egg. So they violate natural law as they degrade the integrity and dignity of the human person.
It is true that there are religious differences on the use of artificial contraceptives. Some religious denominations leave it up to married couples the decision to use or not to use artificial contraceptives based on the dictates of their conscience. The Catholic Church and other Protestant communities, on the other hand, disallow such use on moral grounds. But it is not correct to say that when the Catholic Church and the other religious communities oppose the RH bill they “are trying to impose their moral convictions on Congress to legislate laws that are in accord with their respective moral frameworks”.
The Catholic Church and other Protestant communities are precisely asking Congress not to legislate particularly the RH bill because it violates both human and natural laws. They are only pointing out to Congress that there is no need for the RH bill if the purpose is merely to give couples the freedom to choose artificial contraceptives or any other means of birth control for family planning because right now these are already available and can be used by couples of any religious belief and moral conviction. Indeed under the present set-up, our pluralistic society of Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists can harmoniously live with their own moral convictions and beliefs on the issue of the use of artificial contraceptives.
Catholics and some Protestant churches are opposing the RH bill not because of their desire that the “laws of the nation be consistent with their moral principles”. Neither are they violating the principle of separation of Church and State by doing so. On the contrary it is the State or Congress which will violate this principle if the RH bill is enacted into law.
This is because the bill favors the religious beliefs and moral convictions of other religious communities and churches; it makes artificial contraceptives and methods readily and freely available to couples belonging to these religious communities; it contains coercive provisions for the use of artificial contraceptives, services, supplies and devices disguised as “reproductive health care services and family planning methods particularly addressed to employers and health care workers; it allows husband or wife to undergo vasectomy or ligation without the consent of the spouse; it requires sex education for children from age ten to 17 without the consent of their parents.
In short the bill violates the principle of Church and State separation which is against the Constitution by forcing citizens to go against their religious beliefs and moral convictions. The overall the issue here is strictly legal, not religious.
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E-mail at: email@example.com
Monday, December 13, 2010
Who really believes women’s reproductive health is the main concern in House Bill 96?
Last week in Manila, Malcolm Potts, grand-daddy of the international family planning movement, announced that unless the much debated “Reproductive Health” bill is passed in this session of Congress, the Philippines would become the next Somalia. No surprises in that. Within the same week, however, Bill Clinton, also visiting Manila, amazed everyone (including his wife, no doubt) by stating that the growing Philippines population is an asset to the country, and that its babies, expanding the population at a rate of 2.04 per cent a year, are a “massive natural resource”.
The Philippines, you may have noticed, is currently the global focus of population and development debates. A hotly debated population management bill has been tabled in one form or another for years. Now, with the almost univocal support of national and international media, the born-again “Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2010”, or HB Bill 96, is being touted as the solution to women’s reproductive health, women’s rights in the Philippines, and economic development for the poor. What is being quietly avoided is any talk of population control, or, as the bill terms it, “population management”.
Clinton’s comment – that population, or, in real life, babies – are an asset, not a liability, puts a wedge in the argument of the elites. So who is right? Is the growing population of the Philippines a danger, threatening the very future of the Philippines state? Or is it a primary source of wealth, and an opportunity to rev up (and sustain) its economic engines?
The answer is, of course, more nuanced. Population alone cannot provide economic might. But population can be understood as a pre-requisite for economic development, and a means for growth and achievement if other elements are primed and ready. These other factors are, notably, educational opportunities (particularly for women), and economic opportunities. The great limitation to achieving this in the Philippines, as elsewhere in the developing world, is corruption.
Population control or population management relies on the assumption that government can and should curb population growth in order to provide the goods necessary for economic development: education, opportunity, housing, protection and stewardship of natural resources. But if the government priority is managing the population according to a schedule of targets and goals, what of the dignity and rights of the persons being “managed”?
It is obvious to anyone who bothers to actually read the Philippines bill that population management tops the hierarchy of principles. The idea that it is primarily concerned with the promotion of human rights, or women’s rights is an illusion.
This is clear from the very first page of the bill, which states: “This policy is anchored on the rationale that sustainable human development is better assured with a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens.” The guiding principles of the bill then tell us: “The limited resources of the country cannot be suffered to be spread so thinly to service a burgeoning multitude that makes the allocations grossly inadequate and effectively meaningless”. In case this were not clear enough, the author of the bill, in his explanatory notes, provides the following elaboration: “We cannot address adequately the problem of poverty… if we do not squarely address the problem of a bloated population and high and unwanted fertility”.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the bill’s “management” priorities so clearly as the provision for mandatory counseling of couples seeking a marriage license on the government determined “ideal family size” of two children. In terms of human rights, this would take the Philippines closer to China and India than the liberal democracies that are applauding this bill. In line with trends in the West, however, the bill does not provide conscience protection and rights for health care workers.
The potential for human rights and democratic freedoms to be trampled on would be increased by the growth of the public health bureaucracy. New government agencies and functions would be established to facilitate the government managed purchase and provision of contraception to the people. Large scale hastily defined bureaucratic structures are prime opportunities for increased corruption – an increase the Philippines can ill afford – and point to the betterment of petty bureaucrats and politicians on the payroll of wealthy western lobbies rather than the people of the Philippines.
Let’s be clear: these provisions are in direct conflict with the right of men and women to marry and found a family, freely determining their own fertility. Such human rights and freedoms – guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reiterated in numerous international documents since that time – cannot be sustained within the context of a government managed population system.
There is added reason for concern, therefore, when the RH bill takes note of China’s one-child policy, without acknowledging that the significant decline in births in China happened before the tyrannical policy was implemented. The Chinese government had been talking down the birth rate for a decade and had no need, let alone right, to impose strict family limitation on its people -- a policy that is now backfiring with a critical sex ratio imbalance and a rapidly ageing population.
More remarkably, the authors of the Philippines bill fail to acknowledge the significance of the decline in fertility that has already taken place in their own country. There has been official encouragement of family planning in the Philippines as long as anywhere else in the world and contraception has been available for those who want it, alongside the natural family planning method encouraged by church authorities in the mainly Catholic country.
In fact, the United States based Population Reference Bureau, a leading promoter of population control, notes in a current report that the birth rate fell from six births per woman in 1970 to 3.3 in 2006. The fact that infant and child mortality is also falling moderates the effect of lower fertility but is likely to further bring down the birth rate by a process of natural adjustment similar to what happened in the West itself before the contraceptive era.
The report further notes: “Almost all women in the Philippines know at least one method of family planning and currently married women know an average of eight methods. The users of modern methods (such as the pill, injectables, IUDs, and female sterilization) account for two-thirds of all family planning users. Women at all economic levels are using family planning, even at the lowest wealth quintile, where almost 41 percent of married woman are using any method of family planning.”
If there is still an “unmet need for family planning” of 22 per cent, as PRB claims, this is not a problem that warrants the sledgehammer of a virtual two-child national policy, with mandatory counseling plus government funding and promotion of contraceptive methods which are culturally objectionable to a large number of people and which, in every country where they are widely used, bring with them the demand for legalized abortion.
Finally, it is worth noting that many states that have pursued population strategies as recently as the 1980’s, have reversed those policies and are anxiously attempting to find ways to increase birth rates. This is true both for Asian countries such as Singapore and South Korea, that are seeking to reverse specific policies, as well as for other countries – Asian and western – that are unable to reverse general population declines that are now threatening formerly robust economies and social systems. Japan, Taiwan, Germany and other parts of Europe come to mind.
The debate surrounding the Philippines legislation has relied on high profile interventions, much rhetoric, and almost no analysis of the bill itself. Statements such as those by Malcolm Potts reveal an individual bias that takes no account of the data of population and fertility trends, nor of the content of the current bill under debate.
The need for separate legislation developed for the care of women’s reproductive health while respecting the human rights of men and women is essential. More essential still, is the need to ensure that such legislation addresses the key challenges in front of us and does not masquerade as a policy to remove or deny those freedoms, while surreptitiously enabling other ends.
If the Philippines legislators wish to table a population management bill they are free to do so. But they must be clear about the terms of the bill and engage in open debate based on its merits. In such a debate, leading economists might be engaged, and the data available from countless national population policies should be examined. In any event, a population management bill should not be sold to the country under the guise of necessary maternal health reforms, or increased women’s health and rights.
Anna Halpine is the founder of the World Youth Alliance, a global coalition of young people committed to promoting the dignity of the person.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
(I received this via email. It's not yet posted on any website as far as I know.)
World Youth Alliance Position Paper: House Bill No. 96, the “Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2010”
The World Youth Alliance (“WYA”), a global coalition of young people promoting the dignity of the human person, states the following position on House Bill No. 96, the proposed “Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2010” (“RH bill”). We wish to contribute the voices of 1 million young people from over 160 countries to this high profile debate on reproductive and maternal health, population, and integral development of the human person.
So far as sound developmental policy and respect for human dignity are concerned, the RH bill suffers from flaws that undermine its efforts to improve Philippine society.
We believe that the current version of the RH bill should not be passed for the following reasons:
A Wrong Theory of Population and Development
Watch Renelyn Tan, Regional Director of WYA Asia Pacific, delivering a speech on WYA's stand regarding RH Bill in the Philippine Congress.
The bill’s most serious flaw is its reliance on the false premise that a government-run population management program is necessary for the’s economic and social development. This unsupported assertion is contrary to sound developmental economics and undermines the very reproductive rights the bill strives to support.
Tamping down population growth is the last thing the Philippines should be worrying about right now, for several reasons. First of all, the assumption that population management is necessary or even beneficial to sustainable economic development is simply wrong. For at least two decades now, economists have known that there is no correlation between population growth and economic development.[i] Some countries with large, growing populations are prosperous; others are not. Conversely, some countries with little to no population growth also do well; others do not. Population is not the issue.
Secondly, even if the Philippines wanted want to tamp down its population growth, history shows that the sorts programs proposed by the RH bill are an ineffective way of getting there. Compare countries that instituted heavy-handed population control programs in the 20th century with countries that had no such programs: Fertility rates declined in both groups of countries, and at similar rates.[ii]The most important factor in determining a country’s fertility rate is its desired fertility rate, which explains 90% of actual fertility.[iii] Mere access to contraceptives, on the other hand, has only a 5% impact on total fertility.[iv]Desired fertility is, in turn, linked to the background economic and educational opportunities offered by society.[v] When women have access to education, when families know that children will be in school for the first quarter of their lives, and when parents believe that every child will have the opportunity to prosper, then people tend to make choices that result in smaller families.[vi] When these conditions are not present, families will be bigger, whether they have access to contraceptives or not.[vii] is a condition, not the result, of population stabilization.
Thirdly, it is short-sighted to think of declining population growth as a goal in of itself. Across Europe and Asia, countries that saw steep declines in fertility in the past generation are now bracing themselves for the future consequences of an aging population, when a large number of elderly can no longer be supported by the smaller and younger working class.[viii]
Fourthly, worries about tamping down population are a wasted effort in the face of the opportunities at hand. Right now, the Philippines is in position to enjoy the sort of “demographic dividend” that many of its Asian neighbors did in the late 20th century, when falling fertility rates lead to a large work force with fewer old and young dependents to support.[ix] That is already occurring naturally in the Philippines. To take advantage of it, though, the country needs to ensure that its rising generations have access to the education, health, and opportunity necessary to prosper.
Finally, the RH bill’s fixation on population management undermines the very human rights it seeks to advance. The government cannot, on the one hand, guarantee the “universal basic human right to reproductive health” with its concomitant “right to make free and informed decisions,” and on the other hand advocate a policy that tells parents—especially women—what their choices should be. Such an approach is an unjustifiable affront to the dignity and capacity of the poor.
The current RH bill is permeated with a wrong theory of population and development. Fixing the flaw would require extensive revisions. Until those revisions take place, the bill should not proceed any further.
Imposition on the Freedom of Conscience
The second major flaw in the RH bill is that it imposes upon the freedom of conscience. The right to act according to one’s moral, ethical, and religious beliefs is recognized in both Philippine and international human rights law.[x] The RH bill, however, disregards that right in several key instances.
The bill fails to protect the conscience rights of healthcare providers, by requiring them, upon penalty of imprisonment or fine, to assist patients in finding procedures that are contrary to the providers’ ethical convictions. This “referral requirement” should be eliminated.
The bill would also require every employer, no matter the size, to provide the full range of reproductive health services to every employee, irrespective of the employer’s moral beliefs or the fiscal ability to do so. This provision is both an impediment to conscience and an anti-jobs measure because every worker in the Philippines is now more expensive to hire or retain. It should be eliminated.
Parents and educators are given no assurances that they can opt out of portions of the RH bill’s new sexuality education curriculum if they find it contrary to how they believe they ought to raise their children or teach their students. The bill needs an opt-out provision.
Finally, the bill’s criminalization of speech that “maliciously engages in disinformation” (an undefined category) about the substance or even potential motives behind the RH bill violates the constitutional right to free speech and expression. The provision should be eliminated in its entirety.
Inadequate Emphasis on Maternal and Child Health
The RH bill’s greatest strength is its bolstering of maternal and child healthcare, especially its mandate to increase obstetric care and skilled birth attendants. There is probably no more important step the Philippines could take toward improving reproductive health. The UNFPA states that three-fourths (¾) of all maternal deaths could be averted by the presence of skilled birth attendants.[xi] By contrast, family planning is likely to reduce maternal deaths only by one-third.[xii]
The RH bill’s current provisions for maternal care are important, but underdeveloped in comparison with other parts of the bill. We recommend expanding the Population Commission’s (POPCOM) implementation mandate (Sec. 20) to include and emphasize maternal health, including: overseeing the bill’s obstetric care quotas (Secs. 5 and 6), improving the training of skilled birth attendants, and coordinating the deployment of skilled birth attendants.
The current version of the RH bill is a self-conflicted document. Until the bill can be modified to address problems identified above—a faulty economic basis, violations of the freedom of conscience, and an under-emphasis on protecting unborn life and improving access to obstetric care—it should not advance any further in the Congress. The Philippines needs a better bill.
If you have questions or comments please contact the WYAAP office at firstname.lastname@example.org or our Director of Advocacy at email@example.com.
Watch Renelyn Tan, Regional Director of WYA Asia Pacific, delivering a speech on WYA's stand regarding RH Bill in the Philippine Congress.
[i] David E. Bloom, David Canning, JaypeeSevilla, “The Demographic Dividend: A New Perspective on the Economic Consequences of Population Change,” RAND Corportation, 2003, p. 17.
[ii] Compare the decline in children per woman between 1950 and 2000 in high population control countries like India (5.91 to 3.11), Indonesia (5.49 to 2.38), Bangladesh (6.7 to 3.22) and Pakistan (6.6 to 3.99) with countries without extensive population campaigns: Brazil (6.15 to 2.35), Turkey (6.9 to 2.23), Argentina (3.15 to 2.35) and Algeria (7.28 to 2.53). Data from the United Nations Population Division. Cited in Matthew Connelly, Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population, Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2008, p. 374.
[iii]Lant H. Pritchett, “Desired Fertility and the Impact of Population Policies, “Population and Development Reivew 20 (1994), pp. 1-55.
[v] Connelly, pp. 374-75.
[vi] Jacqueline Kasun, The War Against Population: the Economics and Ideology of World Population Control, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999, pp. 78-86.
[viii]Joaquin Alumnina, Commissioner of the , Closing Address to the Second European Demography Forum, November 25th, 2008 (“The economic impact of ageing will make it more difficult to finance our Social Model and to sustain it for future generations… impact of ageing in the EU will, from 2040 onwards, almost the halve the average growth rate of about 2 ½% in recent years”); European Demographic Report 2007, Executive Summary, page 6 (“Demographic change will gradually limit the scope for future employment growth”), 7 (“Projections show that, as employment decreases and productivity becomes the only source of future economic growth, the annual average potential GDP growth rate in the EU-25 will decline from 2.4 per cent in the period 2004-2010 to only 1.2 per cent in the period 2031-2050”); Wong, Theresa and Brenda S.A. Yeoh. “Fertility and the Family: An Overview of Pro-Natalist Policies in Singapore.” Asia MetaCentre Research Paper S eries, No. 12. AsiaResearch Institute, National University of S ingapore. Available at: http://www.populationasia.org/Publications/ ResearchPaper/ AMCRP12.pdf. Also see: Wijaya, Megawati. “Singapore faces a ‘silver tsunami.’” AsiaTimes Online. August 27, 2009. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/KH27Ae01.html. Last visited: 8 September. 2010. Loh, Andrew, “MM Lee—population control revisited 30 years later.” The Online Citizen. Sept. 8, 2010. http://theonlinecitizen.com/2009/ 08/ mm-lee-%E2%80%93-population-control-revisited-30-years-later/. Last visited: 8 Sept. 2010.
[ix] Roberto de Vera, “Economic Issues: the Consolidated Reproductive Health Bill in the ,” The Bishops-Legislators Caucus of the Philippines, pp. 13-15.Based on data from the United Nations.
[x]Philippines , Art.II, § 2; Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 18.
[xi]UNFPA Facts Sheet, “Delivering Hope and Saving Lives.” Available at: www.unfpa.org/webdav/site/global/shared/safemotherhood/factsheet3_eng.pdf. Last visited: 10 Sept. 2010.
[xii]RH Bill Explanatory Note, p. 1 (“Correct and consistent use of contraceptives will prevent one-third of all maternal deaths”).
Watch Video here.
Monday, December 6, 2010
by Leonardo Q. Montemayor
(Mr. Montemayor is the President of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) and Party-List ABA (Alyansang Bayanihan ng mga Magsasaka, Manggagawang-Bukid at Mangingisda). Mr. Montemayor served as Agriculture Secretary in 2001-2002 and Party-List Representative in the Fourteenth Congress. The following is the FFF/ABA position paper, entitled " : A Convenient Lie". This is an improved version of his oral testimony at the House Committee on Population and Family Relations hearing last month. )
The so-called problem of overpopulation is a convenient falsehood being peddled by rich countries to cover up their injustices against, and to shirk from their obligations to, developing nations.
Last year, Ambassador Alistair MacDonald of the European Union expressed support for continued assistance to the Philippines, on the condition that our government undertakes comprehensive population control. At present, some 60% of existing EU aid for the Philippines is devoted to population management-related programs.
Mr. MacDonald could have mollified the anger felt by self-respecting Filipinos had he also underscored the urgent need for greater consumption control by citizens of EU states. The truth is that many advocates of population control, under the cloak of “reproductive health” and “family planning”, are concerned not so much to save lives, as to prevent them. This would mean less pressure from developing nations to clamor for a fairer distribution of global wealth and a stop to the profligate consumption of finite resources by the developed states.
If RH and population control advocates truly desire to safeguard the welfare of mothers and family members, they should accord the highest priority to fund generation and genuine anti-poverty programs through effective socio-economic reforms, balanced agro-industrial development and good governance.
But where are their calls on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries to comply with their international obligation to allocate 0.7 per cent of their gross national product for the economic development of the Third World?
Where is the leadership of the United States and others mainly responsible for global warming that has been disrupting climate, food security and health, especially in developing nations?
Poverty, unemployment and hunger are most severe in rural areas. Yet, developing countries cannot progress, because the unfair trade practices of the EU and other OECD member-countries are forcing increasing numbers of desperate farmers and fisher folk to degrade their local environments just to survive the day. Yearly, trade-distorting agricultural subsidies of the OECD drain their public treasuries
of about US $300 billion, which is three times the amount of OECD’s “foreign aid” to developing countries.
Moreover, why isn’t there a stronger push for the meaningful settlement of Third World debt, so that countries like the Philippines can free up hundreds of billions of pesos for badly needed schools, health services and food production-related infrastructure , among others, and thus register huge advances against poverty, hunger, ignorance and disease?
Instead, the Filipino people - particularly the poor - are being seduced with condoms, pills and intrauterine devices (at a cost of billions to their already cash-strapped government) as “essential medicine” that will improve their “quality of life”!
Our Constitution commands the State to protect the life of the unborn from the moment of conception. The 1986 Constitutional Commission records clearly show that ”conception” starts from the union of the male sperm and the female egg in the mother. Hence, pills, IUDs and contraceptives that kill the living, fertilized egg are abortifacients.
Pro-RH bill advocates insist that they oppose abortion. However, many of them claim that medical science is divided on when life begins. Assuming arguendo that this is so, every Filipino remains obligated to follow the Constitution. And, why can’t we give the fertilized ovum the benefit of the doubt by protecting it? We are told that a reproductive health law is crucial to ensuring maternal health, inasmuch as eleven mothers die daily from complications arising from pregnancy. The hidden message is: no pregnancy, no death. Ergo, distributing state-subsidized contraception is the easy way to maternal/reproductive health! (Incidentally, shouldn’t maternal health concerns include the prevention of cancer, high blood pressure and other known adverse effects of birth control pills and devices on their users?)
Surprisingly, defenders of women’s “empowerment” have not batted an eyelash against the Department of Health’s acknowledged goal of two million ligated or sterilized women by 2015.
According to the DOH, the procedure will cost P1,500 if performed in a government facility. (Under pending RH legislation, for poor patients, the full cost will covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and/or government public assistance.)
Large-scale ligation will supposedly promote reproductive health and respect for each woman’s “inherent right over her own body”. But, by crippling a woman’s God-given capacity to create life, aren’t we destroying the essence of her mother/person hood and her dignity?
Incidentally, the DOH’s plan is discriminatory. Only 30,000 men have been targeted for genital invasion through vasectomy by 2015, although the procedure costs much less - P500.
Mass sterilization of women and men – the most “cost-effective” final solution in the war on poverty?
Our friends in the RH camp say that they want principally to help “couples, parents and individuals” (married, we hope, as the Philippine Constitution recognizes marriage and the family as the bedrock of society) to achieve their desired family size. But they should realize that the State has no business to even suggest the desirable number of children. Otherwise, the State would infringe on the fundamental rights of spouses and parents, and go against deeply held Filipino values that children are our “wealth” and not our “liabilities”.
Respected demographers warn that a two-child policy will hasten the decline and dying-out of the Philippine population starting around 2020, and undermine the viability of our economy and social security systems. Ironically, several RH bills pending in Congress seek to establish two as the ideal number of offspring.
We must therefore guard against efforts by national, local and foreign governments to foist a radical depopulation policy. This will be attempted through provisions in the RH bills requiring, among others, sexuality education for youth aged 10-19, easier access to affordable or birth control services, sanctions against uncooperative health providers. Ongoing and proposed programs, such as the Conditional Cash Transfer undertaking of the Department of Social Welfare and Development should also be monitored closely.
A pell-mell rush into a “contraceptive society” will trigger a tectonic shift and create dangerous fissures in our family mores and relationships. There will be profound and damaging consequences on the stability and character of our economic, social, political, cultural and religious institutions.
Hopefully, we and our lawmakers will give adequate consideration to the far-reaching implications of the RH and Population and Development bills, and REJECT them.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Here are the YouTube videos of Congressman Roilo Golez's presentation at the National Conference, Episcopal Commission on Family & Life, St. Michael Retreat House, . Congressman Golez's Youtube Channel GOGOGOLEZ contains numerous videos of his pro-life work against the RH Bill.
1. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family &Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (1)
2. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (2)
3. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (3)
4. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (4)
5. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (5)
6. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (6)
7. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (7)
8. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (8)
9. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (9)
10. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (10)
11. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (11)
12. Roilo Golez, National Conference on Family & Life, Antipolo, 2 December 2010 (12)
13. Roilo Golez w/ audience, Family & Life National Conference, Antipolo, 2 December 2010