Friday, September 26, 2008

Global Conspiracies on Reproductive Health, Population and Development: What It Means for Filipinos

A well-meaning historical account of the supposed global population control movement threads together eugenics, racism, imperialism, feminism and humanitarianism gone wrong. There is a supposed global conspiracy, which began over a hundred years ago and which, as certain Filipinos now suggest, continues today. It is then suggested that those who support the Philippines' Reproductive Health Bill be made aware of such a history, of "how the reproductive rights movement began and where it would lead." Is this the "hidden agenda" of a national policy that would consolidate already-existing government initiatives? A national policy which would provide the services for which Filipinos express a need? A national policy which is not in any way coercive, but would provide choices for Filipino families to take control of their own lives?

If we go by accounts of how movements and ideas are born, then history is replete with examples of what we now deem as heinous and unjust practices perpetrated by humans to each other. The birth of modern medicine, as well as a host of other sciences, has seen numerous inhuman experiments conducted in the name of modernity and progress.

The introduction of Christianity in the Philippines, and the role played by the Catholic Church can likewise be seen in a problematic light. The early nationalist movements and our very own national hero, Jose Rizal, recognized this. Once the concept of an all-seeing, all-knowing God was introduced to pagan and animist Filipinos in the 16th century, this became a mechanism of control over the native population. The fear of offending the Christian God, and enduring eternal damnation in hell was a more effective weapon than wielding swords or firing muskets. Indeed the expansion of the Christian faith worldwide is a history as bloody as any.

And yet today we think not of doing away with doctors or scientists and the contributions that modern medicine and science have made to improve the quality of life. We think not of condemning Christians and the Catholic clergy for the sins committed in name of ideas and institutions of the past.

Historian Michael Connelly, author of Fatal Conception: The Struggle to Control World Population, focuses his archival research on the supposed confluence of interests of Malthusians, racists, eugenicists, imperialists, environmentalists, feminists, public health advocates and international organizations in a global conspiracy to control global population. If this shadowy network, in operation for more than a hundred years and funded by multibillionaires and rich-country donors, were truly bent on keeping non-whites from reproducing, then two-thirds of the world's population in 2008 will not be either Indian or Chinese.

In the latest surveys, 92 percent of Filipinos think it is important to plan a family. Almost 9 in 10 think it is important that the government provide budgetary support for modern methods of family planning. Filipino families are having more children than they can support with the respect required of a truly dignified life. Risky abortions, committed mostly by married mothers in their thirties, occur because there are no options and information on safe and reliable family planning methods.

The economic and developmental exigencies aside, Filipino families have expressed the need for family planning services as a first step to lead a just and quality life. Those who choose to ignore the glaring reality of this need and who insist on global conspiracy theories to mar the simple and functional purpose of the Reproductive Health bill need to take off their ideological blinders and take note of Mr. Connelly's advice; the fatal misconception is "to think that one could know other people's interests better than they knew it themselves."

I Heart Craig Ferguson

Yin, Yang. Thesis, Antithesis. Here's Scottish-American Craig Ferguson's take on the US financial meltdown, capitalism and democracy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Response to Couples For Christ Ad

The Couples for Christ ad which came out Monday, September 22, put the Penalty provisions of the RH bill completely out of context. It was effective in scaring people into thinking that the bill would intrude into their individual right to manage family life as they see fit. The CFC ad is reproduced by WillyJ on his blog.

I am sure there are lawyers among the leadership of the CFC and so this ad was not crafted in ignorance. I can only surmise that they mean to sow misinformation. I am truly disappointed by the un-Christian tactics being used by those against the bill. Their surrogates in Congress are prime examples of how the sacred have been more than willing to get in bed with and roll in the dirt of the profane.

I think some clarifications are in order.

CFC: 1. As employers, do you agree to be compelled to provide free reproductive health care services, supplies, devices and surgical procedures (including vasectomy and ligation) to your employees, and be subjected to both imprisonment and/or fine, for every time that you fail to comply? Section 17 states that employers shall provide for the free delivery of reproductive health care services, supplies and devices to all workers more particularly women workers. (Read the Definition of Reproductive Health and Rights Section 4, paragraph g, Section 21, Paragraph c and Section 22 on Penalties)

CLARIFICATION: The bill complements already existing provisions in the Labor Code which mandates employers to provide family planning services and incentives to their employees. The labor code also prohibits employers to deny these benefits to women employees to avoid having pregnancy be a reason for employment termination. The bill expands on these provisions by mandating free RH services and commodities to their employees providing of course that employees request them (Labor Code Article 134 (a-b) and Article 137(a1-a3).

CFC: 2. As health care providers, do you agree that you should be subjected to imprisonment and/or fine, if you fail to provide reproductive health care services such as giving information on family planning methods and providing services like ligation and vasectomy, regardless of the patient’s civil status, gender, religion or age? (Read Section 21 on Prohibited Acts, Letter a, Par 1 to 5 and Sec 22 on Penalties)

CLARIFICATION: The bill's penalties are primarily geared towards preventing health care providers from refusing to offer RH services based on the client’s personal circumstances.

Those who refuse to render services on account of religious convictions will not be penalized provided that they immediately refer clients to others with the same facilities. Provided also that the client is not in an emergency or serious case as defined by RA 8344.

CFC: 3. As a Spouse, do you agree that your husband or wife can undergo a ligation or vasectomy without your consent or knowledge? (read Section 21 on Prohibited Acts, Letter a, Paragraph 2)

CLARIFICATION: The bill does penalize those who refuse to perform vasectomy or ligation on a person of legal age on the ground of lack of spousal consent or authorization. Once a spouse has sought these services, it is assumed he or she has done so in consultation with his or her partner. It is no longer within the purview of the law and the state whether he or she has decided to undergo these procedures without the express consent of the partner.

A husband does not own his wife's body and vice versa.

CFC: 4. As parents, do you agree that children from age 10 to 17 should be taught their sexual rights and the means to have a satisfying and “safe” sex life as part of their school curriculum? Reproductive Health Education will be mandatory from Grade 5 to the end of High School (see Sec 12 on Reproductive Health Education and Sec 4 Definition of Family Planning and reproductive Health, Par b,c and d)

CLARIFICATION: The bill endorses age-appropriate sexuality education to ensure that young Filipinos have the right information while instilling values for them to exercise responsible decision-making in matters of sex and reproductive health. Section 12 lists the main elements of the proposed sexuality education to be incorporated in school curricula. The bill does not contain specifics on having a “satisfying and safe sex life.”

The following are the general topics to be taken up in sexuality education class mentioned in the bill:

1. Reproductive health and sexual rights
2. Reproductive health care and services
3. Attitudes, beliefs and values on sexual development, sexual behaviour and sexual health
4. Proscription and hazards of abortion and management of post-abortion complications
5. Responsible parenthood
6. Use and application of natural and modern family planning to promote reproductive health, achieve desired family size and prevent unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies
7. Abstinence before marriage
8. Prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and other STIs/STDs, prostate cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer and other gynecological disorders
9. Responsible sexuality
10. Maternal, peri-natal and post-natal education, care and services

So, yeah. No details on kama sutra.

Also, only teachers who agree to teach sexuality education will undergo training.

CFC: 5. Do you agree that you should be subjected to imprisonment and/or pay a fine, for expressing an opinion against any provision of this law, if such expression of opinion is interpreted as constituting “malicious disinformation”? (See Sec 21 on Prohibited Acts, Par f and Sec 22 on Penalties)

If you answered NO to any of the questions above, then you are not for RH Bill 50433. Read the bill. You will find more objecrtionalble provisions such as losing our parental authority over a minor child who was raped and found pregnant (sec 21, 1, no. 3), reclassifying contraceptives as essential medicines (Section 10) and appropriating limited government funds to reproductive services instead of basic services (Section 23).

CLARIFICATION: In accordance with the law, the bill does not curtail every individual’s right of free speech. To express disagreement or dissent against the merits of legislation is the cornerstone of any democratic society.

HB 5043 does penalize any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of the Act. This includes such acts as claiming that the bill will punish parents who, in good conscience, disallow their children to attend sexuality education class.

Sponsorship Speech for the Reproductive Health Bill

I thought this was the best of all the sponsorship speeches for the RH bill. Delivered September 22, 2008.


Sponsorship Speech for the Reproductive Health Bill
by AKBAYAN Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel

Pro-life. Pro-abortion. Anti-Marriage. Anti-family. Mr. Speaker, the danger of reducing each other into labels is that it obscures the clarity that is always direly needed amidst division and confusion. When applied deliberately, with the intention of establishing borders or building walls, labels become instruments of fundamentalism and dehumanization, as if those who do not agree with us are less than human, impure, and mere targets of resentment.

We have begun our plenary deliberations for the National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood, and Population Development Bill, a controversial but crucial measure. Inflicting our tantrums upon this chamber and the public in general will gain us nothing. Sobriety, Ginoong Speaker, and the triumph of reason should govern our conduct as members of the House. Huwag natin idaan sa galit o pagmamaktol ang ating pagpahayag ng ating posisyon sa isyu na ito.

What happened last week must not be repeated. The integrity of the process was put into question as a means to delay the process: there was an allegation of signature-forging, and the authors of the bill in question were labeled "magnanakaw" . It was not just decorum that was abandoned, Ginoong. Speaker, but something more basic: decency, respect for dissent, willingness to engage in debate, and the ascendancy of rules.

To reduce a constitutional mandate to appropriate public funds for a health program as mere 'pagnanakaw' is not just insulting, Ginoong Speaker, but a travesty of Congress's mandate. It shows supreme ignorance of why this institution exists. As AKBAYAN represetative, I am a proud author of the reproductive health bill; the public funds appropriated for the programs proposed went through a vote in the Appropriations Committee and were subsequently approved. To call that act 'pagnanakaw' insults the committee, the members of the House who went through a legitimate process, and the entire chamber itself.

The proponents of the measure are accused of being interested only in the appropriated funds for the program. This is entirely untrue. The appropriation will directly go to DOH and the Population Commission to finance services and products needed to implement the program. Mauuna ang AKBAYAN sa pagsisiwalat ng anumang katiwalian sa pag-gamit ng pondong ito dahil ito ay dapat mapunta sa mga pamilyang Pilipino, sa mga kababaihan at hindi sa bulsa nino man, o sino man sa mga mambabatas na nandito ngayon at kung sino mang opisyal ng pamahalaan.

Democracy entails healthy debates and respect for differences. Kung gusto ng mga sumangsang-ayon o kumokontra sa panukalang ito na mag-rally, maari nila itong gawin. Pero wag natin i-derail o hadlangan ang proseso, Ginoong Speaker. This achieves nothing, a great disservice to the Filipino people who expect Congress to do its job, and to do it well. Let those who oppose the bill lay down their arguments, and let those who support it present their points. Let us not fan the flames of confusion, but instead be instruments of reason.

Let us not lose track of why this debate is happening in the first place. AKBAYAN calls on legislators, members of the Catholic and other faith communities, fellow women, fellow feminists, husbands and partners of women, and the public in general to step back from this climate of antagonism and listen with an open mind as to why this bill is relevant, important, and why it must be urgently enacted.

We need this bill because of abortion, and not for it. Right now, the Philippines is in the midst of an abortion crisis, according to various media institutions, with World Health Organization putting the number of abortions at 800,000 annually. Walong daang libong abortion, walong daang libong kababaihan, Ginoong Speaker. Binibigyan tayo ng numerong ito ng ideya kung gaano kalala ang problema, pero hindi nito kayang maipakita ang sanhi kung bakit ganito ang nangyayari.

Kahit doblehin o triplehin pa natin ang walong daang libo, hindi nito kayang ipakita kung ilang beses nabibiyak ang puso ng isang teenager na babae na nabuntis nang wala sa kanyang kagustuhan. Forty-five percent of the pregnancies in the country are unwanted, according to the same global organization; if only wanting and not wanting could indeed be truly divided in percentage and decisions parceled into solid numbers, then perhaps it would have been simple to subdivide and process this issue so that choices can easily be made.

Unfortunately, a pregnant teenager without a choice cannot indulge in such calculated decisions. Ang alam lang nya ay dapat syang tumigil sa pag-aaral dahil sa kahihiyan o dahil di pwede at di tinatanggap ang pagiging buntis ng isang babaeng di kasal sa ilang paaralan. She will probably be forced to marry the father of the unborn child, or to marry someone else, anyone, just to avoid the disgrace and humiliation. Her mind would most likely try imagine the hundreds of thousands of pesos that would need to support the child, compute it against the salary and support that she would ever get. While the amount may not exceed figures that we have, it would be the most insurmountable and difficult number that she would ever encounter.

Tatakbo na lang ba sya, pupunta ng probinsya at magpapakupkop sa kung sino man na nakakaintindi? Kung hindi, papaano kung sya ay palayasin? How is the act of uprooting or rejection measured, Ginoong Speaker? Is it in terms of the number of times that she would miss a family celebration, like a birthday, or the certainty of not being able to speak to one's parents ever again?

Should she just resort to abortion, just like others before her? Hundreds of thousands of pregnant women have taken this path, and we pass judgment on them as if they made an easy choice. Nothing is easy for a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy. Those who have chosen to abort an unwanted pregnancy would most likely end up undergoing unsafe procedures, would probably swallow hazardous potions and unsafe pills sold right in front of the Quiapo Church, and suffer from abortion-related illnesses. They will forever be scarred as criminals, accused of violating our moral standards, our laws, and even the constitution.

If our pregnant teenager ends up bleeding from an unsafe abortion procedure and encounters a doctor who decided to perform a postabortion dilation and curettage without anesthesia to punish the sinful woman, would statistics be able to tally the number of times that the thought of death had crossed her mind? Could it scope the width of each cry, every whimper, that she has to swallow just so she could retain her sense of dignity and self-worth?

The Department of Health said that 100,000 abortion cases end up in the hospital annually, while other experts have said that the data is underestimated. Kaya bang bilangin ng ilang numero ang sakit at kahihiyan? Hundreds have died out of post-abortion complications, some of them were refused treatment by doctors while others refused to go to hospital out of fear. If it were only ten, would it be more acceptable?

No easy choice, Ginoong Speaker, not even for those who opted to bear the child. There are those who resort to unsafe abortion, then there are mothers who are forced to take desperate measures. Last week, a mother, Janeth Ponce, forced her children to drink a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner, and then later drank the poison herself. Her suicide note revealed her family's wretched situation. We can always cull up numbers to know how many potential Janeth Ponce's are out there – an SWS survey says that this year alone, the number of food-poor families rose to 7 million, families who are living, if such a word still applies, with less than P60 a day. We don't need to crunch numbers to know that poverty is most brutal among unplanned families.

Janeth must have earned enough the previous day to be able to purchase a bottle of liquid toilet cleaner, the cheapest of which costs less than P40. She and her children will join other symbols of poverty – Mariannet Amper, the 11 – year old child who committed suicide in Davao City, Mang Pandoy, and many others – and their names will probably land in next year's State of the Nation Address. Gagamitin ang pangalan ni Janeth Ponce at ng kanyang mga anak para bigyan ng mukha ang statistics ng kahirapan, pero di nito kaya ipakita kung papaano nilason ng desperasyon at kawalan ng pag-asa ang kaibuturan ng isang ina. One could never approximate what she must have felt when she was buying that bottle of toilet cleaner unless one realizes that her anguish began much earlier, that her hopelessness began when she was deprived of a choice to live a life of dignity.

"Go forth and multiply" – we authors of the bill are often reminded of this biblical phrase to question our support for the measure. Surely, we are being asked by our faith to multiply the vastness of the life's beauty, and not the desperation of mothers who face each childbirth with dread, with worry, with hopelessness.

No numbers, no statistics, can ever measure the complexity and hardship encountered by mothers facing an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy. And no labels like anti-life or pro-abortion, Ginoong Speaker, can correct the dehumanization of women facing this condition.
Ginoong Speaker, for AKBAYAN, the primary goal of the bill that we are about to tackle is to restore the dignity of our women, especially poor women. Ang gusto lamang ng bill na ito ay bigyan ng patas na karapatan ang mga mahihirap na babae at pamilya na mamuhay ng marangal. Life is about choice, exercising the free will endowed by the Creator, in order to achieve fullness of life and human dignity. And the choice before our House is to cast our votes in conscience on this secular matter of public policy. Yes, public policy, as borne out by a Pulse Asia survey this year, in which more than 40% of respondents said: I am Catholic and I want reproductive health policy.

Reducing this bill as a pro-abortion measure renders invisible the harsh realities that we seek to address. AKBAYAN recognizes that we all come from different religious or ideological persuasions, but we must at least unite that families must be given a choice to plan their families according to methods that suit their faith and condition.

The bill aims to ensure that the national government has the central responsibility to provide reproductive healthcare and family planning services and information. It creates a Commission on Population that has the mandate to coordinate and implement reproductive health and population management programs. It also hopes to make several reproductive health programs available, such as: hospital-based family planning in all national and government hospitals; provision of reproductive health products and supplies, which shall be considered as essential medicines and supplies and shall be part of the National Drug Formulary; inclusion of age-appropriate reproductive health education for students and young Filipinos; provision of Mobile Health Care Service (MHCS) to deliver health care goods and services in each congressional district; and encouraging private practitioners to join their colleagues in non-government organizations in rendering such services free of charge or at reduced professional fee rates to indigent and low income patients.

The bill likewise affirms that abortion remains illegal under our laws and our constitution. We appeal to all to stick to the text of the bill, without embellishments. In our division we must not lose our integrity and our sense of truth.

Many of us in Congress have decided to vote on this measure according to our own conscience. Indeed, this is one contentious issue that would cut across party lines and partisanship. But a conscience vote need not be a vote made with the mind closed. We can disagree, but let us disagree according to the principle of truth. Let us unite where we can, compromise if possible, divide the House if necessary, but let us take the bill for what it truly is. Ginoong Speaker, nawa'y sa kabila ng ating pagkakaiba-iba, magsama-sama tayo na manindigan para ibalik ang dangal ng mga kababaihan at ng pamilyang Pilipino. Maraming salamat po!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines has been vocal in opposing the passing of the RH Bill. The Church hierarchy has called for denial of communion and even the excommunication of members of Congress who have authored or are supportive of the proposed legislation. They have also called on the electorate to punish these legislators at the polls come 2010.

As Filipinos and as a social institution, the Church hierarchy is entitled to voice its position in matters which they deem involve morality. However the issue on reproductive health is one that is not merely moral, defined as the authoritative delineation of what is right and wrong, but also touches on what is socially just for those subsumed by such authority.

The Philippines is a republic. Its people have elected members of Congress to whom they have entrusted representation, or voice, in government. The Philippine Constitution is the highest manifestation of Filipinos’ collective voice. One of the reasons why the constitution deems the separation between Church and State “inviolable” is to remain true to the republican social contract which places sovereignty on the will of the People. Filipinos exercise their sovereign right to self-determination by electing representatives in government who are tasked to make manifest their constituents’ collective voices. As a Republic, the Philippines’ legislators, unlike the Catholic hierarchy, must also be answerable to those not of the Catholic faith.

In 2004, Filipino Muslims issued a fatwah (official ruling) which expressed support of family planning. The ruling endorses the use of “all methods of contraception” given that they are safe, legal and in accordance with the teachings and principles of their religion. This is a direct response to higher maternal and infant mortality rates in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao as compared to other regions. A genuine democracy aggregates the interests and values of the minority along with the majority.

Plurality of Catholic Voices: Unity in Diversity

The Philippines, and five others, are the only remaining Catholic countries of 42 which do not have a clear policy on population management and reproductive health.

The plurality with which the Catholic faithful practices the minutiae of religion is reflected in the varying stances of practitioners world-wide. A region with which we share cultural and historical similarities, Latin America, has long called for the need to put reproductive health issues into a developing-country context.

Immediately after its release in 1968, Latin American bishops expressed support for Pope Paul VI’s De Humanae Vitae, with some caveats that placed the Catholic faith in the context of developing countries. The Second Latin American Bishop’s Conference held that same year admitted that “population growth in Latin America exacerbated economic, social and ethical problems, such as low nuptiality, single parent families, out-of-wedlock births, and housing shortages.” By the late 1960s the Latin American Catholic Church affirmed that population growth caused unjust suffering for many families.

There is clearly no single voice speaking for all Catholics on matters of reproductive health and population management.

Disinformation in the Media Regarding ‘Abortion’

In accordance with the Constitution, RH Bill 5043 clearly upholds the sanctity of family life by continuing to deem abortion illegal.

There is no evidence to support the claims of the CBCP that Representative Lagman’s RH bill “opens a door for abortion to be recognized as a population control method.” In fact, Western Europe, where abortion is legal, experiences the lowest rate of abortion in the world with a rate of 11 per 1,000.

Whether we admit it or not, abortion is a fact in the Philippines. Based on data gathered in the late 1990s, some 473,000 abortions occurred in 2000. 1/3 of women who experience an unintended pregnancy end it in abortion. Unintended pregnancy is therefore the root cause of abortion. Preventing unplanned or unintended pregnancies by providing women access to comprehensive family planning and reproductive health services, including access to complete and accurate information, would enable women and couples to make informed decisions and, consequently, help prevent abortions and save women’s lives.

It is true that in Philippine context the Church hierarchy perhaps holds a monopoly of authority on things ‘moral’ and not-of-this-world. They are shepherds who must tend to the spiritual needs and well-being of their flock. However their flock is also made of flesh-and-bone and must subsist on material things – clothes, food, shelter, all of which are finite. It is in the dominion of the laity – to ensure that the people’s physical well-being is able to sustain spiritual well-being.

While there may be no interest groups who loudly campaign for a comprehensive national reproductive health program, some important facts indicate that Filipino families need such policies. According to the NSO's Family Planning Surveys, 15.7 percent of married women who do not want any more children or who want to wait before having their next birth currently have no access to any method of family planning.

36 out of 100 married women are already using modern family planning method. Pills are the most popular form of contraception, followed by female sterilisation or ligation. More than half of those who use contraceptives are married women aged 35 to 39 years old.

Reproductive rights are also human rights. Reproductive rights do not merely address issues on abortion. Reproductive rights address issues of maternal mortality, discrimination and a host of other gendered health issues. It is the struggle of women and men to decide on when and whether they want to have children and to have access to family planning services to achieve greater control over decisions which affect their own bodies.

There is a strong need for national legislation addressing the need for a pragmatic reproductive health policy. Legislators must answer to their mandate by enacting legislation which will lead to sustainable population and reproductive programs. Legislators are also mandated to speak on behalf of those who cannot.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

In Response to Expectorants' Condominiumized

In response to Resty O's Condominiumized series. All data culled from official documents published by the NSO, NSCB, PopCom and UPPI.

On "overpopulation."

The number of people inhabiting a finite space with finite resources only matters when the finite space and resources are not managed well. The Earth can only be called "overpopulated" when it can no longer sustain the population. Even regenerating resources, such as agriculture, can fail due to mismanagement or natural calamities. Given that the Philippines' annual population growth rate of 2.06 (average 2000-2007) remains constant, it is projected our population will rise to over 140 million. This is not a problem if along with the population growth we experience a sustainable growth in the economy that would support this number of people. But the economy has been very sluggish in comparison to our neighbors. If we look at the agriculture sector alone, which employs 36 percent half of the working-age population, the future looks grim.

Nowhere does it say in HB 5043, that the Philippines is "overpopulated."

"Our population growth rate of 2.04% is extremely high. The CIA gives a much lower estimate of 1.728% (World Factbook Country Listing of 2008, available on the internet)."

And of course we will believe the estimates of the CIA over Filipino demographers and statisticians who are working here.

"We should aim for a Zero Population Growth Rate."

The bill does not suggest a target population growth rate. Our lobby's budget advocacy aims to eliminate "unmet need," i.e. the number of mothers who say they want to space children or stop having children but are unable to because they do not have access to family planning methods and commodities and/or do not have resources to acquire them.

There is a 15.7 percent "unmet need" among married/in union women of reproductive age (15-64) in the Philippines.

On the number of children

The Philippines' total fertility rate, i.e. the average number of children per couple is 3.5. Desired fertility rate on average is 2.5. What difference can one more child make? According to studies a lot. The table below is taken from "Poverty, Vulnerability and Family Size: Evidence from the Philippines" by Aniceto C. Orbeta, Jr. ADB Institute Discussion Paper No. 29, June 2005.

This table shows that the more children there are in the family, the higher the higher the incidence of poverty.

You can read the rest of Orbeta's analysis here.

While the bill suggests having 2 children, this suggestion is in no way coercive. If a couple think they can support 10 kids, they will not be penalized for their choices.

FACT: 20.1 percent of currently married/in union women of reproductive age are already having 2 kids anyway. 17.9 of them have 3 (NDHS 2003).

On Poverty

This country is poor (by poor I mean 1 in 4 Filipinos is going hungry involuntarily). A growing population is not the cause of poverty. Poverty is caused by many, many things. I believe my search for these factors are well-documented in this blog over the years. However a growing population makes those who are already poor suffer more. It also perpetuates the cycle of poverty from once generation to the next. Once you are born into a family with scant resources, what are the chances of you making out of poverty yourself?

Picture a family of 10, the young couple with 8 kids living on the father's minimum wage. P300++/ day divided by 10 = P30 per person? In this instance, how can the mother not make her children work as well? That is why you see them begging on the streets instead of studying in schools. Should the mother work as soon after giving birth to her youngest, who will take care of the brood? If she does not work, then she has no money of her own and is completely at the mercy of her husband. What if their marriage is less than ideal?

On Development

I am re-posting my response from part of my latest entry at Filipino Voices.

What is the impact of the reduced population growth of other countries on economic development?

Reduced population growth coupled with an outstanding development policy environment produced the “East Asian miracle” something that has eluded the Philippines, even while it is geographically in the region. Lower dependency ratios, a large working-age population and a growing economy resulted in rapid economic development.

South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Thailand are among the first group of less-developed countries (LDCs) to achieve low total fertility rate (TFR) in the world. From the 1960s onward, these countries abandoned the idea that a large population was a source of strength. This assumption was replaced by the idea that population growth was an impediment to development goals.

Between 1975 and 2000, Thailand’s per capita income grew to eight times, Indonesia 6.5 times and South Korea 10 times. The Philippines could only manage 2.6 times but it had the highest population growth rate among the three at 2.36 percent a year on the average.

The East Asian miracle can be attributed to these countries taking advantage of their ‘demographic dividend’ or the rise in the rate of economic growth due to a rising share of working age people in a population. The demographic dividend was made possible by reduced fertility.

The East Asian demographic transition of the past fifty years is the fastest demographic transition to date. Modern transitions are faster because countries gain the benefit of knowledge, experience, or technology developed by others.

The Philippines has a large working-age population, but why does this not translate into economic growth?

While the Philippines has a large working-age population, the dependency ratio is equally high. Moreover, not all who belong to the working-age group are gainfully employed.

For every 10 working adult, there are 7.2 dependents. There are 51 million Filipinos of working age (15-64 years old). Of these 4.1 million are unemployed and 10 million are underemployed.

“Demographic dividend” (or the rise in the rate of economic growth due to a rising share of working age people in a population) does not occur automatically. It is achieved through the right combination of national policies. Without the right policy environment, it is possible that the Philippines will miss the opportunity to secure growth.

The demographic dividend is delivered through three main mechanisms - labor supply, savings and human capital.

As long as the labor market can absorb the labor supply, per capita production increases. Sluggish economic growth unable to absorb new labor will lead to a large unemployed/underemployed working-age population.

A large working population encourages the growth of savings, improving the overall prospects for investment and growth in the country. However an economy unable to generate wages that exceeds subsistence levels is not likely to generate savings.

A working population able to save will invest in education and health - essential investments in human capital. The long-term gain is a society that is more productive, promoting higher wages and a better standard of living.

The three mechanisms of demographic dividend – labor supply, savings and human capital – are all highly dependent on the national policy environment.

On the role of the Church

"The Catholic Church is not concerned with the plight of the poor in the country."

Mary Racelis to Bishop Bacani, Ateneo Development Society Forum, 2 Fridays ago: "If the church is so supportive of natural family planning father, why are there no services teaching them in parishes?"

Bishop Bacani: (stoic face.)

On the safety of pills, condoms etc.

This is the WHO report quoted by CBCP when they say pills are carcinogenic. In bold caps the report reads "ORAL CONTRACEPTIVES INCREASE RISK OF SOME CANCERS AND

I don't know if Resty has ever bought condoms. They usually say they are only 96% or so effective. The instruction leaflet also informs the user of how the condom might be damaged etc.

On Thailand. In 1991, HIV/AIDS infection among the adult population peaked at 143,000. The aggressive promotion of condom use initiated by the government was a direct response to the epidemic focusing on the country’s prostitution industry. At one point condom use among sex workers was at 96 percent. At present there are an estimated 580,000 adults who are infected with HIV/AIDS.

Strong government support decreased the prevalence of HIV/AIDS significantly among adults, reducing the rate from 30 percent in 1994 to 12 percent in 2003.

On Semantics

The motive of couples of practice natural family planning as well as modern methods is one and the same. Prevent pregnancy.

At this point I'm getting more and more annoyed with what Resty, an old blog buddy, has posted on his blog.

I will finish this post once I have cooled down some.

But on the point of age-appropriate sex education for young adults from Grade 5 and up, this is what I have to say.

I went to the committee hearing discussing the proposed Anti-Child Pornography bill. Horror of horrors, child porno, filmed here and starring Filipino children, are openly sold in places where anyone can buy DVDs.

Pro-life solon Rep Zialcita, in a sneering and condescending voice asked "Sa tingin n'yo makakatulong ba ang sex ed ng Rh bill na yan?"

Rep. Custodio-Antonino responded by saying they are actually considering lowering the age for much younger kids. To teach them not about the intricacies of kama sutra but to teach them what sex is. To teach them about their sensitive body parts and about what is inappropriate interaction with adults.

We are dealing here with realities other people live through. Let's pull our heads out of our asses and open our eyes. Please.

To be continued....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Popcorn Na Lang

This is just a small preview of the exciting events happening in the HOR now that the RH bill ha finally reached the floor for debate. Kung pwede lang magbaon ng popcorn sa loob ng session hall. Hehehe.

(Re)producing the Democratic Process

If I were of a less moderate temperament, I would have long used by Pilot G-tech C4 to stab the CBCP's lackeys in Congress.

Last night was testament to the dirty tactics employed by the likes of Rep. Pablo Garcia, Rep. Apostol and the queen of bungangeras Rep. Susano. They're obviously in panic mode now that the RH bill, in its umpteenth incarnation, has reached the farthest ever stage in Philippine legislation. In the Committee on Rules hearing last week Rep. Delmar, Rep. Velarde, Rep. Golez and Rep. Rodriguez (and their silent partners) all tag-teamed to stop the bill from being debated on the floor for all congressfolk to hear both those for and against the bill. They wanted to stop the discussion at committee level. Rep Delmar, in an impassioned but woefully misguided and exaggerated diatribe, said this bill is "divisive" and will potentially cause a "political crisis" never before seen in the country. Blah blah blah.

In an appeal to emotion, Rep. Golez said the bill was just about babies. 27 babies born in each barangay. That is the problem, he only sees the issue at hand from such a narrow perspective. This issue is more than just about sex and reproductive health. Its about reproductive justice, gender relations, women/mother empowerment, quality life, socio-cultural change, human capital investment and economic growth and development.

Last night the opposition would not even allow one person to deliver a sponsorship speech. The debates will not even take place 'til next week!

To be continued...


Read HB 5043 here.

Sign the petition in support of the bill here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

I am not a Maoist

Will slower population growth decrease the degree of inequality in the distribution of income?

Allowing the poor a chance for greater fertility control will help reduce income inequality. Increases in labor supply (due to rapid population growth) relative to other factors of wealth creation (i.e. capital and natural resources) usually reduces the rate of return to labor and increases the rate of return to the other factors.

Because high-income groups usually own these other factors – their incomes will be expected to increase disproportionately – exacerbating income inequality.

Reduced income inequality is a desirable goal of any society for various reasons. It reduces societal tensions between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ These tensions may at times translate to increased crime rates – necessitating further public spending on security to maintain order. Reducing income inequality also leads to reducing the need (perceived or not) for ‘dole-outs.’ These are subsidies shouldered by this country’s tax base – the salaried middle class.

A just society is able to fairly reward those who work. Charity is the province of patronage politics.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Republican Sabotage

This has got me convinced some Republicans are deliberately sabotaging this campaign. There must be some serious in-fighting happening now. Someone somewhere is leaking controversial info about Sarah Palin. How else can bloggers lead the news about Palin's Troopergate, Babygate and Pastorgate?

Listen to conservative commentators say what they really think about the Palin pick.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sex and Politics: An Appeal to Reason

Why is there a need for a comprehensive legislation on population and reproductive health?

The Philippines’ policy on population and reproductive health (including family planning) has always been dependent on the incumbent. The late President Ferdinand Marcos instituted various commendable policies on said issues. However, President Corazon Aquino’s ambiguous stand on the role of family planning adversely affected the implementation of the national family planning program by the Commission on Population (POPCOM) and its partners.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos’ administration, in contrast, saw a strong support for family planning initiatives as it was sought in the context of sustainable development. When Joseph Estrada became President, enlightened officials in his Cabinet aggressively pursued and implemented family planning programs albeit the lack of any official pronouncement on population and family planning.

Estrada was replaced by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose stand on the matter of population has been flip-flopping. She once acknowledged the need to reduce the country’s population growth rate to 1.9 percent, only to say in another statement that she is leaving the matter to local government units.

Relegating the responsibility of crafting and implementing policy interventions on population, reproductive health at the local level is not a viable option. This would lead to unsustainable and uneven programs across LGUs because of the relatively short term of LGU officials (3 years), disparities in internal revenue allotment (IRA), and the local official’s priorities, among others.

A number of progressive local government units like Aurora, Ifugao, Marikina, and Davao City have already put in place family planning and reproductive health policies and programs in their respective areas. But what to do with a city as big as Manila, where any form of information and services related to family planning has been banned?

Unless a comprehensive national legislation on population and reproductive health is put in place, our people’s right to complete, accurate and comprehensible information, and comprehensive services on population and reproductive health will always be dependent on the whim of the powers that be.

What is wrong with the government’s recent natural family planning-only (NFP-only) policy?

Universal access to a constellation of methods in family planning utilizing a principle of voluntary choice is founded on the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which guarantees for every human person full respect for human rights (Sec. 11, Art. 2,). Moreover, the fundamental law of the land gives due cognizance to the particular needs of women for gender equality (Sec. 14, Art. 2); of the youth to enjoy protection of their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being (Sec. 13, Art. 2); and of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood (Sec. 3:1, Art. 15).

A policy focusing on natural family planning alone actually goes against these Constitutional principles. The government’s Natural Family Planning-only (NFP-only) policy will isolate the majority of women who prefer modern and artificial methods. Focusing only on natural methods is disempowering and discriminatory to women as it deprives them of universal access to the whole range of family planning methods so that they can choose what is most appropriate for their bodies, in accordance with their beliefs.

International and local studies have established that natural methods are not for everyone. For example, the standard days method is effective only for women whose menstrual cycles fall between 26-32 days and requires the unfailing cooperation by the husband as the couple must abstain from sex for 12 consecutive days during the woman’s fertile period.

Various national surveys of the National Statistics Office have also revealed that Filipinos prefer modern family planning methods, with pills as the consistent no. 1 method of choice.

The government’s NFP-only policy will also reverse the gains in lowering fertility and slowing down population growth to propel national development. It is impossible to achieve the government’s 1.9 percent population growth rate target if other legally permissible and medically-safe family planning methods are disregarded.

If government is really concerned about women’s fear of side effects and complications, and the general acceptability of modern methods, then, it should put its resources to programs for educating people on the pros and cons of all methods, rather than a policy imposing only one method.

What hampers the establishment of a comprehensive legislated policy on population and reproductive health?

Some leaders of the Catholic hierarchy and lay organizations have vigorously opposed reproductive health, family planning and population initiatives. While these groups have the right to stand for their religious beliefs, as guaranteed by the Constitution, the situation becomes problematic when they threaten and coerce those who believe otherwise, as what has been happening come election time. During the 2004 elections and in the 2007 elections, members of the Catholic hierarchy and lay organizations have been known to campaign against candidates supportive of policies and programs on population, reproductive health, and family planning. This is highly inappropriate as these candidates, when elected into office, will have the responsibility of crafting policies and implementing programs that will benefit all Filipinos, whether Catholic or otherwise. Moreover, data from the 2003 NDHS show that only 2.4 percent of married women cite religion as their reason for not using contraception.

Sadly, there are also leaders in government who choose not to recognize that the country’s population and reproductive health situation really needs to be addressed as it has serious negative impacts on our development as a nation. By turning a blind eye on the situation, they are failing to concretely address the people’s needs.

Do the people want reproductive health and population policies and programs?

The results of the Pulse Asia Ulat ng Bayan surveys on Family Planning done in 2000, 2004 and 2007 indicate the people’s consistent clamor for a comprehensive national policy on reproductive health and family planning.

In particular, the March 2007 Ulat ng Bayan findings reveal the following:

  • Nine out of 10 Filipinos (92%) consider family planning important.
  • Nearly 8 out of 10 Filipinos (76%) believe in the importance of including family planning in a candidate’s program of action.
  • Three-quarters of the adult Filipino population (75%) will support candidates who are in favor of a government budget for family planning.
  • About 9 in 10 Filipinos (89%) think it is important that government provide budgetary support for modern methods of family planning including the pill, intra-uterine devices (IUD), condoms, ligation and vasectomy.
  • One in two Filipinos (50%) is of the opinion that rapid population growth hinders the country’s development
  • A larger proportion of Filipinos believe that the church (or religion) should not participate in the issue of what family planning methods couples should use (44% vs 33%).
The results of the 2004 elections have also proven that inclusion of reproductive health and family planning in a candidate’s platform of government is not a factor in losing, as all of the national and local candidates who carried these issues have gained a fresh mandate from their constituents.