Illustration by Carla T. Gamalinda

IS IT his short memory or his short attention span?

President Benigo Aquino III has changed his tune once again on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill. This time, he joins the attention-seeking, privilege speech-crazy and time-wasting lawmakers pressing for the passage of the bill.

Earlier this year, Malacañang had said it would not certify the bill as urgent. But it’s an indication of how twisted this presidency is—that while Malacañang has made a policy statement of non-support for the bill, the President has, for all intents and purposes, staked his personal support for it.

During his speech at the 100th commencement exercises of the University of the Philippines (UP) last summer, the President seemed to have toughened up when he said: “Buo ang loob ko na maisabatas ang prinsipyo ng responsible parenthood.”

“Buo ang loob” seems uncharacteristic of someone known for his nebular policy statements and his lazy work ethic. Now that he has decided to take the bull by the horns, it is only too disappointing that he is manning up for the wrong cause.

What made this man prone to dithering change his mind again? He himself gave the reason and shared with his audience an anecdote about a personal encounter with a teenage mother with a child in the slums. He explained that if the young girl had been given access to “responsible parenthood” services, she would not be in such a pitiful state.

The anecdote appallingly reveals not only what goes on in the President’s mind, but how policies are formulated shallowly in the new government. The anecdote smacks of melodrama and reveals the tendency of RH bill proponents to exploit sob stories about the poor in order to press for the passage of a measure that basically seeks to check poverty by compelling the poor to splay themselves.

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At the least, the anecdote reveals a presidency woefully lacking in the intellectual capacity to truly determine the causes of poverty. His superficial analysis is vintage bleeding-heart liberal. Presumably, the President was beating his breast and doing the sympathizing for the teenage mother from the window of his Porsche. The fact that the UP crowd cheered him on for his declaration of resolve should indicate that UP, for all of its leftist claim of correct social analysis of the “objective condition,” shared his reactionary philistinism.

We know that those UP professors who declared their support for the bill did it on ideological purposes, “reproductive health rights” being an ideological shorthand. But even Marx rejected birth control because of its false social analysis: it doesn’t strike at the root causes of poverty and injustice. Birth control is false consciousness; it’s a bourgeois panacea.

What we witnessed therefore during the 100th UP graduation rites was a melding of right and left—a conspiracy of self-interest groups to blame poverty on the poor.

What are the root causes of poverty? One is corruption. The President should be reminded that he won the 2010 elections on the strength of his anti-corruption platform—“Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Intrinsic to the platform is a correct analysis of corruption: that it is abetted by overregimentation, bureaucratization, of the state trying to extend itself to issues and concerns that are best left alone and to sorting out themselves, such as teenage pregnancy and family planning. (In the final analysis, what can the state really do about teenage pregnancy? And what right has the state to legislate an “ideal family size”?)

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Fast forward to a year later and the President has essentially reneged on his election vow by backing a bill that will expand the powers of the state, violate the natural-law provisions of the 1987 Constitution, provide it an excuse to spend at least P3 billion to shower on the poor contraceptives, many of which are abortifacients, and over all, provide new openings for overregimentation, bureaucratization, and corruption. The President may as well change his political slogan: “Maraming corrupt, maraming mahirap.”

‘National suicide’

Blinded by the false glitter of high-end economic lifestyle, the President fails to take into consideration the pitfalls of population control—the fostering of a contraceptive mentality and the unfolding of the so-called “demographic winter,” defined by American demographer Philip Longman as “the ongoing global decline in human birthrates [which has become] the single most powerful force affecting the fate of nations and the future of society in the 21st century.”

The Philippine population growth rate of 1.95 percent is already below the demographically correct replenishment rate, yet RH bill supporters insist on their own demographic illusions, just as they insist that access to free contraceptives and family planning services are needed to check pregnancy mortality, even if pregnancy complications are hardly a leading cause of death among women.

Still, the President keeps on zeroing in on the need to “educate the couples” by giving them a choice of family-planning methods. But the problem is more deep-seated than that: the problem (aside from the Philippine state’s long history of corruption) is the lack of quality education per se. How can you possibly expect someone who wasn’t taught well to make informed, rational decisions if the information—and tools—presented to him are already tainted with bias? How do you expect people to make their own informed choice when you shove them free contraceptives?

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Perhaps it is high time for the President to realize that the RH bill offers false solutions to the nation’s pressing poverty. Soon enough, his stand—and the RH bill minions’ preference for easy ideological fixes—will lead to long-term problems that would rise from what the father of management science and “social ecologist” Peter Drucker has called as a “collective national suicide”.

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