Recently I went to a conference and met an awe-inspiring Thai pharmacologist, Dr. Krisana Kraisintu. For the last eight years she has been helping peoples all over Africa to produce and distribute essential medicines that would combat Malaria and HIV/AIDS. Without a doubt, of all regions of the world, Africa is devastated the most by HIV/AIDS. There are over twenty million people now living with the disease in the poorest countries. Liberia, Burundi, Mozambique, Botswana. Dr. Kraisintu also served in the Thai Ministry of Health.
As pictures of her flashed on the screen I couldn’t help remember the predicament of our own Department of Health Secretary, Esperanza Cabral. Here was a Thai doctor, from a still developing country, now able to transfer knowledge on how to combat a fatal disease to even poorer countries. In the Philippines, Sec. Cabral was excoriated by the Catholic Church for daring to give out condoms last Valentine’s Day in an effort to raise AIDS awareness. When she refused to back down, the bishops wanted her axed.
“Secretary Cabral should not continue serving until June because the culture and morality of society will be endangered under her. First, she does not respect the big number of Catholics in the country who oppose the distribution of condoms. Second, is she Catholic? I doubt that she is. Because if you are a Catholic and in the government, you should be living the teachings of the Church. But she is doing the opposite" said Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez.
“It is immoral for a government official to support the distribution of condoms which we know do not really reduce or stop the spread of HIV-AIDS" said Archbishop Ramon Arguelles.
Sec. Cabral has long been staring down the clergy’s double barrel of fire and brimstone. As DSWD Secretary she was a vocal supporter of the Reproductive Health Bill. When she was transferred to the DOH, her stance scarcely changed. With the entire Catholic hierarchy breathing down her neck, Sec. Cabral continues to do her job.
Now, yet again, the CBCP is calling for her head. They are of the opinion that Presumptive President Noynoy Aquino should not retain her as DOH secretary. "Secretary Cabral’s position and policy is very consistent with the RH Bill so if she’s retained she can effectively promote this contraceptive commotion regarding AIDS prevention and her very aggressive policy on condom use" says Fr. Melvin Castro of the CBCP's Episcopal Commission on Family and Life. This is the same Fr. Melvin Castro who seems to think graft and corruption is a lesser evil compared to support of the use of pills and condoms.
I suppose we should be thankful. In the olden days, the Church would have nabbed Secretary Cabral, tortured her for all she’s worth then be made to recant her Un-Catholic beliefs. These days, the men in robes can only play the big bully on the playground.