Illustration by Jasmine C. Santos

SOMETHING is amiss when the Department of Health (DOH), which should be the protector of public health, turns into a promoter of irresponsible and immoral behavior.

Such is the case with Esperanza Cabral, who replaced Thomasian Francisco Duque III in the DOH (he is now chairman of the Civil Service Commission, a constitutional body). While vowing to continue Duque’s “good programs,” Cabral, who was a disaster as a social welfare secretary during the Ondoy disaster last year, has arrogantly set aside his policy of not promoting artificial contraception because of its divisive nature. Instead, she has promoted “safe sex” in the guise of stemming the HIV-AIDS menace.

And so last February 14, Filipino couples received more than the usual stock of flowers and chocolates. Under Cabral’s orders, the DOH distributed condoms at the Dangwa flower center near UST. Instantaneously, a Catholic feast was blasphered by an agent of the State. When the bishops cried foul, the general media defended Cabral and cried, “Intolerance!”

It is typical of the irreverent and amoral press to invoke tolerance when in fact, it is they who are being intolerant to religion. In defending Cabral for making a mockery out of a Catholic feast, it joins the arrogant State in attacking religion.

It is also typical of somebody who has lived off taxpayer’s money as State university student and as a careerist to invoke the separation of Church and State when the Church objects to certain public policies on moral grounds. Cabral is simply stupid and arrogant— her stupidity abetting her arrogance. For the separation of Church and State means the non-establishment of religion: it is a constitutional principle to defend religion against the encroachments of the State. Did she not violate this when she used a Catholic feast to distribute condoms? Wasn’t she at the least insensitive and arrogant?

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Alas, on the day reserved by the Catholic calendar to memorialize an ancient martyr whose sacred sacrifice has become emblematic of the selflessness and martyrdom that characterize authentic love, Cabral, an agent of the State, made a mockery of Church and the true meaning of love. Moreover she did this near UST and around the U-Belt where young people were seeking to find meaningful expressions to give us gifts to their beloved on the Day of Hearts. We could only surmise what Cabral gave her spouse and kids as Valentine’s gifts. Did she give them condoms? We pity them.

And what was the sacrilege for? Because of HIV-AIDS!

The panic about the rising HIV-AIDS cases in the Philippines— with some claiming that the disease has reached epidemic levels— should be discounted. Sure, the cases may have gone relatively high, reaching 4,424 cases last year, but the ratio of 530 in 100,000 people, as recorded by the HIV Behavioral and Serological Surveillance, is short of “alarming.”

Furthermore, studies have consistently proven the ineffectiveness of condoms to prevent HIV-AIDS transmission. Ten years ago when the DOH had been decrying low condom use, it painted the stark scenario that the HIV-AIDS incidence would balloon to 10,000. It is nowhere near that level exactly because the Church opposes condoms and promotes chastity and responsible behavior.

Hence, comparing the Philippine situation to Thailand— which has more than half a million HIV cases, excluding the 613,000 that have died from AIDS— would be hysterical.

Why Cabral would like to adopt Thailand’s radical “safe sex” programs is disconcerting. Thailand is the worst HIV-AIDS case in Asia exactly because of its unmitigated condom distribution, which basically is an indirect way of promoting its sex tourism. If Cabral wants to promote prostitution and sex tourism to earn dollars for her country, then she should have distributed condoms to whore houses, not at a floral market where UST and other young students sincerely seek ways to express the purity of their love.

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But really, the Thai example reinforces the Catholic Church’s critique against “safe sex”— that it instills a false sense of security because condoms are not 100 percent safe. Cabral has admitted as much on a television debate, but insisted that condoms would do for now — just as drugs on hypertension are 70 percent effective but they would do just the same. Her argument is fallacious! Hypertension is not HIV-AIDS; it needs medication, HIV-AIDS needs prevention. But with condoms with a failure rate ranging from six percent to 37 percent, frequent safe sex increases the probability of one contacting the virus. Safe sex cultivates reckless behavior.

What Cabral is doing is to use the HIV-AIDS menace as a smokescreen for population control.

Recent demographics showed that the world does not have a “ballooning population.” What is really happening is a “popping” population, with less babies to replenish the aging populations of the world, as warned by Nobel-winning economists such as Gary Becker in the documentary, Demographic Winter.

Instead of focusing government resources on artificial birth control just to prevent a disease whose spread is arguably under control, why not direct the funds instead to other life-threatening sickness such as dengue, which reached a total of 2,232 cases, with 16 deaths during the first five months of 2008? Why not use health resources on checking poverty-induced tropical diseases?

And if economic growth is the concern of the State, it should find ways to solve poverty through projects and livelihood programs that would help families sustain life, not prevent it.

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The “death” of the Reproductive Health Bill in Congress has been hailed by the Church and pro-life advocates. But it seems that Cabral has made use of her executive position to promote birth control in the guise of eradicating HIV-AIDS. And President Macapagal-Arroyo, a self-declared natural family planning advocate, seems to evade the issue by refusing to control her Cabinet minister’s arrogant ways.

At the very least, the President should stop Cabral from her condom-crazy ways by reprimanding her or kicking her out altogether. The position of health secretary is critical. Cabral is a discredit to an agency whose function is to help people take responsibility of their health and well-being, and not to promote “safe sex” and cultivate among the citizenry, especially the young, behavior run amok.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I’m a Catholic and a Thomasian, but I have high regards for Sec. Cabral’s reproductive health program. It’s one thing to err on the basis of “morality” regarding contraception use, but when you consider the socioeconomic tragedies of unsustainable population level, it’s for the greater good to inform people (especially those with little means) of their options in family planning. There’s nothing more immoral than turning a blind eye to the pervasive reality of poverty in the country.

    • Nabasa mo na ba yung RH bill? Anong mas imoral, ang magtapon ng bilyones na galing sa buwis na binabayaran ng iyong mga magulang (kung nagbabayad nga sila ng buwis) para lang makabili ng contraceptives o ipambili mo na lang ng medical supplies (i.e. basic medicines) para masulusyunan ang kakulangan ng gamot sa mga health centers at pataasin ang sweldo at benepisyo ng ating mga health workers para hindi na sila mag-abroad at iwang nanggigitata ang ating mga kababayang hindi makapunta sa mga pribapong ospital o klinika dahil walang pera? Sige gamitin mong gamot sa lagnat, ubo, sipon at LBM ang condom at pills! Sabihin mo ‘yan sa mga mahihirap na “pinagmamalasakitan” mo! Ipokrito!

  2. Population control definitely needs to be implemented, please look in your own backyard. Is Manila not overpopulated? There are not enough services for those in the lowest socioeconomic sectors of society. And if you don’t believe AIDS/HIV and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases are reaching epidemic levels, you should at least recognize the importance of prevention. There is separation of Church and State in this country, and the last time I checked, the DOH is a government organization.

    • Stupid comment. Sana hindi ka nangongopya ng opinyon ng iba, sana hindi ka nagpapanggap na alam mo ang totoong kahulugan ng separation of Church and State. Intellectual hypocrite.

  3. Philippine population has balooned because of the constant meddling of the church with state affairs. The bible need to be revised – “Humayo kayo at magpakarami” is really not applicable anymore. Maybe 2000 years ago when there was one guy per 1000 square kilometers it was.

    Regarding Cabral, I think she should continue with what she is doing. Condoms, Herbal “medicines” issue. Keep it up Madam!

  4. This article is very lame. You could keep your doctrines and conceptions of morality to yourselves, but not impose it on a secular government like that of the Philippines, which is based on tolerance and respect for diversity. Don’t fool me, you are not fighting for the truth – you are only fighting for the opinion of one religious denomination. By doing that, you are dragging this country back to the Middle Ages and depriving others who do not share your opinion and creed of the choice that they rightly and justly deserve.

    Viva Dr. Cabral! Fight for reproductive and women’s rights!

  5. I am not so surprised why their is such violent reaction to Dr. Cabral’s decision to distribute condoms in a flower shop near UST. At least she should have realized that she is doing that very near to a catholic institution that suspects that this trend to promote safe sex is actually a disguise for promoting promiscuity to the youth. The DOH should also take note that young people even if they use condoms for safe sex aren’t really that protected at all. When couples engage in the act it cannot be avoided that they would also engage in foreplay sex that will never ever be safe sex at all. It is here where they can easily contract the dreaded HIV-AIDS and may be because, they were sort of reminded into engaging in sex by a media that bombards them of sex through condom promotion. If only tese subtle reminders on sex will be less pervasive in society, our youth will probably be more concerned about other things that equally matter to their lives like their studies perhaps or their problems at home or family. Sure, we all want the public to be protected but is giving them the real nature of HIV-AIDS not yet enough? Wouldn’t they learn the dangers and consequently avoid getting the disease after listening to experts about how HIV-AIDS is spread from person to person? Does an honest to goodness information drive to protect people really requires even giving away condoms to the public? The Varsitarian may have been harsh in its article about Dr. Cabral but the DOH should also not dismiss the fact that some of their philosophy on the issue needs more clarification for the public to be really convinced of the moral validity or correctness of their policy. This is really a time of plurality of ideas in society, but in the confusion of so many ideas, the truth is just out there and yet some of us seem to be running away from it rather than seeking it. Baka kasi sa sobrang pag-pro promote ng condoms in our pursuit to safe sex, baka lalo pa nating hinahayaan or kinukunsinte ang mga kabataan na mag engage sa sex. Para tuloy peer pressure ang epekto ng DOH sa kabataan na mag engage sa sex sa sobrang pag promote nito ng condom. Ito’y opinyon ko lang. I hope nobody gets violent about this.

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