PRESIDENT Aquino III should be commended for dropping the reproductive health (RH) bill from his legislative agenda. But his minions in the House of Representatives just the same are prioritizing the passage of the bill. They have in fact consolidated several versions of the bill and rammed it through the process so that, despite the denial of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte that they were rushing the bill, it’s now on its second reading and up for plenary debates. What the right hand giveth, the left taketh.
The consolidated version incorporates the President’s version of family planning, “responsible parenthood,” and further pushing the envelope, now uses the word “population,” making Edcel Lagman and his battened likes eat their word since they had been claiming before that heir original version of the bill was not a population-control measure. Considering that just about every shade and nuance of the population-control movement has been incorporated into the consolidated version, the bill is now known as “The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011.”
With 35 sections and more than 5,800 words, the bill promises to become the most extensive measure by any Congress in history, and should leave no doubt to anyone about its Stalinist conceit and social-engineering intentions. Just about every possibility of unwanted pregnancy and regeneration by the poor is checked by the bill. While ostensibly declaring it does not set “demographic and population targets,” it declares that the ideal family size is two, which is just about saying that the population growth target should be zero. (The ideal population growth for the Philippines is zero, according to RH backer and former health secretary Alberto Romualdez!) The bill adds that the state “shall assist couples” to achieve that size.
Those who say that there’s nothing wrong with this should be reminded that the state is not exactly wet behind the ears: it is after all the state and its bureaucracy that have fostered the corruption and waste that characterize the debacle that is the Filipino republic. Considering the sorry tale of the tape as far as the Philippine state is concerned, should the state, which has an overpopulation of bureaucrats battening themselves like Lagman and congressmen on people’s money, have the right to suggest, much less, declare that there’s such a thing as an “ideal” number of children for couples to have?
Much more, should the state have any right to add what follows after the bill’s arrogant discourtesy of declaring how many children Filipino couples should have: “Attaining the ideal family size is neither mandatory nor compulsory. No punitive action shall be imposed on parents having more than two children.” One should rightly cringe at that.
“Assisting” couples to attain the ideal family size wouldn’t be hard for the state since the bill sanctions just about any contraceptive means and, making free use of taxpayer’s money and funding from foreign donors that support abortion, makes them available to all. Those who argue that the bill is pro-choice but not necessarily pro-abortion should look at the bill’s liberal sanction of contraceptives, some of which even physicians admit are technically abortifacient. And they should look at sections 2 and 3 on “Declaration of Policy” and “Guiding Principles.” While the bill enshrines “reproductive health” as a “universal basic human right” and exalts “freedom of choice” – where do you find such in the Philippine Constitution? – it doesn’t mention key state policies in the charter that should be the guiding principles of any law relating to family, life, demographics, and sex education for the young, the most important of which is:
“Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.”
Why the very telling bypass of such a very relevant constitutional policy in a bill that seeks to use hundreds of millions of pesos to shower contraceptives and abortifacients on the poor; to provide sex education to the young and teach them how to have “safe sex,” even if the education ministries, the biggest bureaucracies, can hardly teach school kids properly the three R’s; and generally to neuter the poor by mass ligation and vasectomy?
Amid the mass of words and declarations and provisions and platitudes of the consolidated RH bill, try to search for constitutional principles such as “the sanctity of family life,” “(protection of) the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception,” “promotion of social justice,” and “dignity of every person.”
So sorry, but you search in vain.
Ona, Akbayan, Jalin
Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona, should also be praised for sticking to his job as health agent of the state and shunning outlandish stunts like the ones staged by his hopeless predecessor Esperanza Cabral, who distributed condoms at Dangwa Flower Market last year during Valentine’s Day.
Eager to strike back at the bishops who had been holding back the passage of the RH bill, Cabral found a bogeyman last year out of the increase in HIV cases to press for safe sex. Insisting that she was within her jurisdiction as a state health official, she distributed condoms near UST on Valentine’s Day. In doing so, she merely showed the arrogance of the state because Valentine’s is a Catholic feast. Apparently, she had thought February 14 was Motel Day.
Those who cry separation of church and state whenever the bishops and the clergy criticize the RH bill should learn from Cabral’s case. The constitutional provision is really a re-expression of the republican dictum, “non-establishment of religion”; thus, separation of church and state is really a prohibition against the state, not against the church. Cabral’s case shows that it is often the state that transgresses on the church. And whatever the alleged meddling of the church on state affairs is, it’s merely one that is suasive, unlike that by the state which, because of its police and taxing powers, is coercive. For example, where did the condoms that Cabral distributed in Dangwa come from? Didn’t they come from the money of ordinary people who were taxed by the state into supporting such an unsavoury stunt as condom distribution during a religious feast which is supposed to enshrine human love, not animal lust?
Meanwhile, the blasphemous stunt of Cabral last year was restaged on Valentine’s this year by the Akbayan party-list group at the Nepa Q Mart in Quezon City. Its youth arm, Akbayan Youth, is the same group that criticized UST Theology professor Aguedo Florence Jalin for giving incentives to students who would post criticisms on the Akbayan stunt and the RH bill on Akbayan’s Facebook fan page.
It is quite galling that a group that by and large receives international funding, some of them from groups that espouse “reproductive rights,” should take to task a Catholic educator who gives incentives to students doing a completely optional assignment to defend the pro-life stance of the Church against RH and safe-sex proponents. Considering too that the professor did not force his students to do the posting, even making it clear to those who support RH among his classes that they need not join the opposition to the measure, considering further that hardly anyone fails Theology (except those always absent) in UST, Akbayan doth protest too much. Hasn’t Akbayan heard of “academic freedom” and “intellectual honesty”? Jalin was teaching Social Issues of the Church and he had the perfect right, nay the responsibility, to tackle the RH bill and the threat it poses to things which the Church holds dear—the natural law, the dignity of the human person, and the sanctity of life. By urging his students to post their criticisms of RH and of Akbayan’s attack on religion through its distribution of condoms on Valentine’s, a religious feast, Jalin was merely asking them to stand up for what they believe in. To put their money where their mouth is. Which cannot be said of other educators, such as the Ateneo 14, who oppose Catholic teachings on birth control and flaunt their defiance despite teaching in Catholic schools: they put their money where their pocket is while completely chucking intellectual honesty.
Akbayan should be reminded that it is part of the administration coalition and technically, a part of government. Since it has representation in parliament and its people occupy key posts in the administration, it has no choice but to consider criticisms and opposing views. No one in power has the right to be onion-skinned.
Agony of Japan
No words can fully describe the magnitude and shock of what Japan suffered last March 11: the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 30-foot-high wall of ocean that the undersea upheaval unleashed were never conceived even in the exacting calculations of the Japanese, probably the most disaster-prepared people on earth. The deadly combination of temblor and tsunami has left in its wake whole towns, industries and populations swept away from the map. Now, Japan is struggling to contain the damage of the disasters on its nuclear power plants. We pray that they will be successful in that regard.
The crisis is the worst that has happened to Japan since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the Second World War and the surrender that followed. Judging from that experience, the world knows that in due time, Japan will heal and recover. We know from the history of the Japanese people about their remarkable resilience and strength of spirit. We know that in the face of many calamities, the Japanese compose themselves with admirable dignity, honor, and optimism. We pray for—and expect that—Japan will heal and be back on its feet. In this terrible time of adversity, the Japanese should not forget that the world is with them in prayer and commiseration.