by: Mark Will Mayo – Magallanes, Evangelical and pro-RH supporter
For some time now, I have been trying to draw a line of where and how I understand the RH Bill. Being a student of a university with very conservative Catholic leanings affected my intial view on the RH Bill. In our classrooms and chapel pulpit, there is a incessant verbal tirade on the RH Bill. That caused me to be ANTI-RH at that time but my conversion from Anti-RH to Pro-RH was indeed a long and tedious one that required further study on the matter myself cross-referencing it with existing date pegged to the context of the study. I have high regards to my university professors in the academic expertise but as the debate lingers on, one thing is clear, the anti-RH sentiment is clearly faulted and based on poor assumptions.
You may have noticed that I used the word “sentiment” instead of “view”. I am already nailing my point there for the Anti-RH movement is more of a sentiment rather than a constant, conscious and logical study. By sentiment, I put the obvious target and tactic of the Anti-RH movers which is to stir up sentiment rather than stay in the logical analysis. The usual arguments are often packaged in a “logical” argument but for the specific purpose of my traget readers (mostly Evangelicals), I will also include spiritual matters often misunderstood by the clerics and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines at large. Let me cite some “sentiments” on the RH Bill…
*RH stipulates or opens the possibility of abortion
Case and Point:
There is not one clause in the RH Bill that actually legalizes abortion. The Family Code and Civil law has existing provisions in prosecuting abortion cases which is classified as homicide. In fact, the RH Bill itself strengthens the prohibition of abortion.
In the Section 4, under the Reproductive Health Care defintion, clause C, it says and I quote:
The elements of reproductive health care include… proscription of abortion and management of abortion complications
Proscription is a legal jargon which means “prohibition” in simple terms. This legal term actually connotes identifying to the concerned public a certain concern and officially condemning it as an act of treason to the state. The consequence of the RH Bill meant that “abortion” is given an even narrow space in legal provisions that will deem the chances of it being enacted as impossible to none.
Also, the pro-RH movers themselves would agree that life is sacred and life begins at conception which the anti-RH movers point out, more particularly the Roman Catholic Church but which they intently leave out in quoting the pro-RH statements in order to serve their own interest. The debate on whether the conception is the union of sperm and egg, fertilization, division of the embryonic cell, etc. is unnecessary since the contention does not even touch on abortion since the bill in itself actively condemns abortion.
*God commanded us to go forth and multiply which leaves no room for birth control
Case and Point:
Roman Catholic clerics quote only the first part of Genesis 1:28 which says “Be fruitful, and multiply…” but they ommitted the following verse “…replenish the earth, and subdue it.” What does “replenish” and “subdue” mean? I asked my Dad on this matter since he is a pastor and theologian. He quickly pointed out that “replenish” meant “to renew” which in turns means to refresh or give new ground; while “subdue” meant “to control”. The latter two parts of the command explicitly means “replenish” and “subdue” the earth right?
I’ll take more emphasis on the word “subdue”. If we take a conservative definition of the earth, it would mean just the planet itself but the the context of “earth” also includes all the living creatures in it. Isn’t Man a living creature to. God’s emphasis is for all creatures over the earth and the need to subdue them. God therefore commanded for us to control the earth in order for us to replenish it. Note that replenish and subdue are connected with the article “and” which means that one is as essentially important as the other. Since God Himself mandated control over all living creatures including ourselves, therefore population control falls within the plan of God.
*The RH Bill is not the solution to poverty and economic problems
Case and Point:
True, the RH Bill is not “The” solution to poverty but a measure of mitigation that is under a regime of measures in order to reduce poverty occurences. There is no magic potion in order for us to solve our country’s poverty problems. Poverty is not just a consequence of one factors like corruption but also of uneven economic distribution in the macroeconomic level (slow trickle down effect) and microeconomic level (the family unit). The population really is a factor in economic development which I will discuss in the point below.
The usual blabber of the anti-RH sentimentalists is that corruption is the main cause of poverty and not population growth. I have to agree that corruption plays a role in poverty but the reality is that poverty is caused by the play of population growth concentrated on the poorest of the poor and corruption. Corruption alone cannot be the cause of poverty and furthermore, debate on quelling corruption should not be heated with the RH issue since its another issue reserved for discussion for another day on another time.
*Population has nothing to do with economic development
Case and Point:
Economic development is an amalgation of several factors which spur its growth or its death. Anti-RH “sentimentalists” as I call them claims that population is not a factor in economic development. They cited the examples of China and India as examples that a large population is not a hindrance to economic development. What they failed to realize is that despite the cosmetic economic developments in the marcoeconomic scale, they are really just concentrated in the urban centers which only constitues a small part of the Chinese or Indian land area and that the economic cycle is only limited to the elite and the middle income classes. The rest are in abject poverty which incidentally constitutes more than half of that country’s populations. Despite being economic powerhouses, China and India have to rely on foreign help in order to feed their rural poor.
At one point, Cong. Roilo Golez mention a statistics in Africa that countries (eg. Burkina Faso, Burundi, etc.) have lower populations yet their economic development is almost nil. He stipulated that since they have lower populations yet have minimal economic progress, lower population does not mean economic progress. What Cong. Golez failed to realize though is that no matter how effective a statistics can convey an idea, we must analyze the variables concerned too. These aforemention African countries having a low population, low development status is for the fact that they experienced a number of civil wars within a decade of history. It is not applicable therefore that we equate low populations with low economic development. The anti-RH’s analysis denies for a fact that countries like Monaco, Luxembourg, San Marino and such have low population densities yet have the most stable and prosperous economies.
You might ask me if population affects economic development, the answer is not as simple as we thought. While on the macroeconomic level, there seems to be no correlation between population and economic development, however, when we look at the microeconomic level to the tiniest economic level, a family, thats where we can clearly see the defined effects of population to economic development. We must not only look at economic development in a national or regional model but look specifically on the family model. It is more than obvious to us that a bigger family finds it harder to proportion needs for its individual members. As a consequence for example, some kids will have to stop schooling and work for the family and those siblings determined to study.
*We are not experiencing overpopulation since we have a lot of unoccupied lands
Case and Point:
This is the mainstay of many anti-RH arguments which incessantly mentions that there are islands of less development and less people leaving an imaginary room for growth. In this argument, you do not even have to summon your statistics book or economic book for common sense itself dictates that this idea is flawed too. Environment is one of the primary concerns of this country and much of its problems are brought about by the incursion of man on main environmental areas.
Try fitting an island with people to the brim and soon enough you’ll see that you’d fact a variety of concerns like lack of basic resources, lack of order and a sure environmental destruction. While there are large tracts of land around the country, you cannot just settle them in for you also have to take into considerations the effects on the environment especially to the fauna and flaura which in themselves determine environmental security. Also, some tracts of land are allocated to food production and therefore cannot be considered open lands for settlements.
Looking at these provincial setting sans the metropolis can give you the false impression of space but the fact is that our country has the 12th largest population around the world. Rapid growth in the current Philippine population which plays at around close to a hundred million means that in less than a decade, we are going to see a population crisis.
*RH Bill is only self serving for they serve selfish interest therefore anti-poor
Case and Point:
I think any bill could also breed the self-serving interest of the few. The usual argument is that this will only benefit pharma companies but this in itself ignores the fact that other bills and projects like the establishment of expressways and other infrastructure is more prone to serving the selfish interest of politicians than the RH Bill. With a proposed budget of just Php 3-B, it is way smaller than any other government projects plus the fact that this will also be divided to several items in the RH Bill which is given attention like comprehensive health care to victims of abortion, women’s centers, etc.
You may ask why spend PhP 3-B on the RH Bill when we can spend it on other projects like school buildings etc.? The problem is that we have the budget yet the problem is not much on the amount but on the priorities and allocation scheme implemented. Even if we distribute the PhP 3-B among these projects, this will be of no use if the departments themselves would not reform their priorities in allocating budget. In contrast, the budget on the RH Bill will cover multiple areas and not just contraceptives which the anti-RH sentimentalist would like to decry about.
*Sex education promotes promiscuity and immorality
Case and Point:
Those who cry foul on sex education policies are in themselves ignoramus on what the scope of sex education is. I have once had a debate on someone in sex education. Lacking the knowledge on the curricula at hand, I almost gave in to the statement that sex ed curriculum teaches that “we should abstain on having sex but if that fails, there is contraception”. That I discovered later on is a misinterpretation on the teaching scheme.
The sentimentalists belittle the fact that sex-ed is stipulated by the bill to start in Grade 5. I have heard of various statements which misunderstoods the facts. Is Grade 5 too young for sex ed? Children as young as three years old will already be curious of matters about his sexuality. The current generation of Grade 5 students are not as innocent as it seems. At ten years old, these pupils are in the verge of their sexual development. I have heard of fifth grade students who knows more about sex than I did when I was their age. These are disturbing and need not be belittled. If you say Grade 5 is too young then you are discounting that fact. Some students are known to have gotten pregnant as early as their sixth grade! If only someone told them that the consequence of sex is having a baby and all those responsibilities surrounded with having one.
Contrary to the lie that anti-RH sentimentalists have been spreading, sex ed does not open the doors for pornography to be introduced to schools. Its not as if a manual on sex or a kama-sutra book will be the textbooks. Section 16 in the second to the last clause, it details the order of progress in sex ed. Take note that the discussions are age-approriate and will take consideration the levels of learning per age plus the individuality of the person. Subject matters like values formation take the highest priority in sex education. Following it are the ff:
(b) Knowledge and skills in self protection against discrimination, sexual violence and abuse, and teen pregnancy;
(c) Physical, social and emotional changes in adolescents;
(d) Children’s and women’s rights;
(e) Fertility awareness;
(f) STI, HIV and AIDS;
(g) Population and development;
(h) Responsible relationship;
(i) Family planning methods;
(j) Proscription and hazards of abortion;
(k) Gender and development; and
(l) Responsible parenthood.
All these issues are what students need to know which cannot be picked up from home. Things like the explanation on emotional and physiological changes are set to fit a classroom setting where the teacher can have an open academic forum. Take note when I say academic. You might tell me that these things are the responsibilities of parents to teach and you are right. It is the parents’ duty to do so but, you are just that plain lucky to find a parent that is actually open to talk about that. Sex ed does not seek to replace the parent as the primary teacher on these matters but rather is a parent’s partner in explaining things that sometimes parents have a difficulty in doing. For homes with parents that are not that open on the discussion, it provides a chance for a student to be aware of these. Sex ed may even push parents to open up to their children. Not only is the student taught on the matter but also the parents benefit by themselves learning where to start the discussion. One must be aware that the Catholic schools themselves has classes on sex ed and I do not see why public schools don’t deserve the same.
There arises a question on whether or not sex ed encourages the youth to be promiscuous especially if the concept of contraceptives is discussed. The statement above which says “we should abstain on having sex but if that fails, there is contraception” is more of a misunderstanding on the part of the module which talks about family planning. For a simple folk, one can easily be tricked to believe blindly however when you look closely, the truth comes smoking out. Will this part of the curricula actually encourage the youth to have a playing-around-knowing-contraception-will-save-one-from responsibility mindset? I do not think so. When we say family planning, it is specified in the given that the matter is about planning a family of course in a married relationship. Will this teach them how to use condoms, pills or other contraceptive methods? No! But it will make them aware that there are such. Health care centers has the job in actually educating usage in a setting with married couples planning a family.
Let me take this as a personal fact that sex-ed DOES NOT teach that sex without marriage is okay but rather it gives us the opportunity to explains why there is sex and what is its purpose with responsibilities tied to it. If I have a child of course I would take the time to teach him but if it were an option between him learning about it from peers or in an intellectual academic setting like a classroom, I’d rather have my child learn it in the classroom where his questions can be answered in a complete and systematic way. Leaving him to the peers will just open him more to the world of pornography. There is no truth to the alleged copying of the American model of sex ed for it has proven to be a failure and thats a known fact. The sex ed curriculum as of latest edition is a localized curricula taking into consideration the local culture of morality and sensibility.
There are actually more issues tackled and discussed in the Harapan Forum but these are the concerns that have captured much debate and talk. In a supplement, I would like to state the obvious fact that we come now to a point where we necessitate an RH Bill is actually a consequence of the failure of the Roman Catholic Church to educate its parishioners on moral and spiritual development. They have practically ruled the country for almost 500 years yet in their years of ministry, they have failed to inculcate a sense of holiness and instead produced among parishioners not just corrupt politicians but corrupt people with a backward mentality. Instead of derailing every government intitiatives, I give a word on the Roman Catholic bishops that they should instead refocus their attention from the RH Bill to reclaiming the lost spiritual heritage among its flock. This is not only a challenge to the Roman Catholics but also to other Protestant denominations especially my fellow Evangelicals.
My word to my fellow Filipinos is this… study the RH Bill carefully and be not subject to others’ opinions, may it be anti- or even pro-RH. I arrived at this conclusion to support the passage of the RH Bill not by the effort of a pro-RH mover but rather in the logic written in the pages. Open your eyes and mind and give a careful thought on the RH Bill for I am sure that you will arrive at the same conclusions as I did if you see it in an unbiased way. Pass the RH Bill now!