Thursday, 6 September 2012

POVERTY & REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL

by Earlie Doriman
The Philippines’ consolidated RH Bill (HB No. 4244 & SB No. 2378) called “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population Development and for other Purposes”; is a challenging subject of debate not only between the legislators but also amongst ordinary Filipino citizens. Observers and writers consider it as a ‘culture war’. The bill intends to guarantee a convenient access to modern methods and information on birth control, maternal and child health.
 To mention some of its important provisions, the RH Bill mandates the government to promote, without bias, all effective methods of family planning both natural and artificial; those that are medically harmless and lawful. It calls for the inclusion of reproductive health and sexuality education in the national curriculum from Grade 5 (11 years old) to Senior high school (16-17 years old). And under the bill, it will authorize a multi-dimensional approach to integrate family planning and responsible parenthood into all government anti-poverty programs.





Role of the Church
The Philippines, being a predominantly Christian nation has always been a tough opposition to artificial family planning even in the early 1960’s. On the other hand, it is one of the poorest and most populated countries in the world. Throughout the country’s political history, the Catholic Church has a voice that is as important as the constitution and its influence to public life and opinion has rooted ever since Christianity conquered this archipelago. 
To the many political issues and episodes in the past, the church played an active role as an advocate, or participant, or supporter, or adversary to these reforms and changes. The bloodless EDSA Revolution in 1986 that overthrew the Marcos dictatorship, was a remarkable triumph in which the Catholic Church and other religious groups braved to achieve.
But political matters should not always be interfered by the church. The government has its own authority to decide what it deemed best for its people through proper, humane, and fair legislation, and implementation. In the long term, the RH Bill aims to uplift quality of life. Whilst it is very difficult to separate the church from the matters concerning the state, it is but gracious for the church leaders to respect the freedom of choice of these 82% Filipino Catholics. They can always express their thoughts and opposition against the government, but at the end of the day, it is these concerned families that see what they need and decide according to their conscience.

I Am No Bible Scholar
I am a Catholic and my faith has always been an integral part of my life and the way I build relationships with others. I do not find it strange if the Church leaders, as legitimate representations of God’s teachings, express their opinion of what they believed as righteous and moral. But there is a border to how they should influence believers to follow them. The church leaders should not coerce or intimidate Christians to follow their personal views and understanding of a political issue. 
Direct attack to persons and organizations during the Homily is abysmal since the Eucharist is a celebration of Christ’s life. What they are supposed to do is to continue being good examples of God’s works and words so that Christians would learn through their wisdom and character and decide according to the truth about God’s law that glimmers through the examples of church leaders.
Does that make me a lesser Catholic because I favour the RH Bill? I am no bible scholar so I could not interpret the words of the scripture intelligently with regard to this. I do read the bible and I try to understand it by the heart and so far, I have not come across verses that speak about the sin of planning a family, be it natural or artificial. What I know is God’s blessing of procreation and I understand too that this command was given when there was not enough population on Earth and that the old civilization was not afflicted with so much poverty. 
I do not think God would be pleased to see his people suffering from a cause that could have been prevented. Poverty is one of these causes. To my humble understanding, family planning as an approach to responsible parenthood helps each unit of the society to feel dignified and protected. God wants his people to be treated with dignity and affection. Every one deserves quality of life. With so much poverty plus a jumbo size family, there is a very little chance to attend the need of every child, impossible to give everyone a fair attention and decent care. An institution that is responsible to look after the welfare of its citizens could not just address enough because the root cause is not treated upon. So then, does my understanding of the scripture cut my line to heaven?

Poverty is Not the Only Malady
Poverty is both social and economic condition; which is repairable. To start healing this disease, a collective endeavour must be carried out. Planning a family is a long, healthy, and morally upright decision responsive to that curing process. As to the kind of method to use, it is an individual’s good judgment to make. The RH Bill does not enforce a single method, but it does promote alternatives for the family to choose. When information becomes accessible; and proper education to young people forms part of the system, the discernment to conscientiousness follows naturally.
Whilst it is true that the poor are just victims of poverty, we could not set aside the fact that most big families belong to the poorest sector of the society. These are the ones who could not provide healthy food for their children; who have no capacity to send them to higher education; and who remain uninformed about responsible parenthood. If the couple think that it is wrong to use artificial contraception, the RH Bill allows them to use what they believe does not crack the sensitivity of their faith and belief.
But poverty alone is not too bad the government could resolve. There are more serious culprit inimical to providing quality services to people. The gross negligence to countryside development, disgraceful corruption, misappropriation of funds, the bad mathematics of centralized government, inability of the national policies to provide useful training and employment, are just few to mention. Poor people have practically no access to higher education. How could an out-of-school citizen get a decent-paying job in a discriminatingly prejudicial Manila? 

It is Not Over Population
Population explosion is not the main issue. I support the RH Bill but I absolutely disagree when its supporters insist that overpopulation is a primary reason. Whilst it is true that Manila and most cities in the National Capital Region (NCR) are so densely populated, this area is geographically less than a quarter of the combined land area of the whole archipelago. Travel around the country and its countryside, one would definitely realize that there is more than enough land to scatter the 90 million Filipinos; which are mostly crowding in the highly urbanized metropolis.
The country is endowed with substantial fertile land that grows anything. The potential to become an agricultural tiger should be a priority for government reforms. These lands if used productively and development is evenly distributed across the country, the higher percentage of Pinoys have something to do to improve life rather than stay at home, drink local wine, and wait for the night to come.
The inequity of budget distribution throughout, left most areas horribly underdeveloped. The pork barrel of the senators who are mostly from Luzon is a futile government spending. This budget could have more meaning for rural development and agricultural advancement. People are misguided to the notion that there is better life in the city, so families who are not trained and encouraged to embrace rural life would leave and follow the miserable fate in urban centres.  The problem lies in the government’s failure to provide basic infrastructures like travelable ‘farm-to-market’ roads (not the muddy, bulldozer-finished ones) and technologically-advanced farming equipment.

Walking What You Talk
For the Catholic leaders of CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines), which seem truly upright to condemn RH Bill, I challenge them to share life in the squatters or to live in the most impoverish shanties in the slums of Manila. I challenge them to go out and eat what the poorest Filipinos eat so they will realize how despicable life has been to these people. Or perhaps adopt all the abandoned and inadequately supported children including those street gangs risking their lives on the streets. Probably, they could build free colleges to provide education to unfortunate children and make for them a better future.
They have been preaching justice and love but have not even understood what injustice and abandonment means. These religious leaders could not understand deeply poverty because they live a pampered life in the church. If they insist to be so righteous in this regard then they must give up first their convenience and solve poverty by themselves instead of barking mad against a hopeful start. “Consistency!How much we need. To walk a measured pace, To live a life of which we speak. Until we see Christ’s face - Anonymous”.

Family planning does not need much research and cross-country analysis to prove that it works. Common sense is enough that every family needs to limit the number of children that they should have, enough so they are fed well, they could get good education, they could live a better shelter. Since most poor couples are naïve on how to control the family size, educating the uninformed is the most righteous and moral thing to do.



15 comments:

  1. i firmly believe RH BILL is one of the solutions to stop overpopulation in our country today. I support this bill.

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  2. Erwin,

    Thanks for your comments. I do support RH Bill but not because the country is overpopulated. There is actually no overpopulation. The problem is their in no balance countryside development, and almost all the budget goes to the crowded metropolis and Manila, making more places across the country so underdeveloped.

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  5. This is interesting content about the Philippines I have not seen before, such as the population control bill and hearing about a Christian Catholic Faith on this Asian island. Unfortunately, I am having a big problem with blogs. Scrolling is so slow, it's a nightmare with this blog as well. I use 3MB Internet velocity but don't have too much RAM. However, some blogs present no problems. Perhaps your graphics are not fit for web low kb. Excuse me to deviate off the topic. However I can't see an option to contact you.

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  6. Thanks for sharing the idea there would be some apprehensions from segment but i am up for it.
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  7. I absolutely OPPOSE RH Bill, no other reasons can convince me hehe (my mind is closed with this issue..)

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    1. Quite a lot to answer..hehehe. Firstly, thank you for the precious time you spent to read my views. I sincerely appreciate it. And secondly, I respect your own views regarding the issues tackled in this piece.

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  8. no one on earth can answer your question in paragraph # 9, only God can tell you face to face if your understanding of the scripture cut your line to heaven (**wink**wink).

    in paragraph # 9, sentence # 2, you cite poverty as one of the causes..my answer to poverty in the Philippines is giving short term and long term solutions (though not all in the country are poor, everyone has mobile phone).. the cause of poverty is greed.. i challenge you to help me with the short term by giving basic needs to the poorest people in the country, your share will be worth 1,000 pounds of groceries and mine will be 1,000 dollars worth of groceries also.. just tell me when to start..

    the bottomline is that, if only those who can afford can adopt even one suffering family in the country, then the percentage would reduce in the comming years... we cannot just rely with the government..let's forget the RH bill...

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    1. By the way sorry for this late (very!!!..frown)reply, was so busy these days, back to school works and did not find reasonable time to sit and answer your points..Huhuhu..loads to answer indeed...

      With respect to your 'short term solutions' to poverty, although i really don't consider it a solution but rather a 'charitable endeavour', in the silence of my heart i have been a sponsor to many poor school children in my Barangay ever since i earned my own money until present..just a pure affection to struggling families who could not even pay school fees or buy notebooks, papers, bags, and pencils for their kids. Maybe if i were to sum up what i have given, it's more than what ordinary earners could possibly shell out..so i am in no way guilty of not sharing my blessings....I HAVE FORTUNATELY STARTED MY CHARITY LONG TIME AGO.

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  9. ..in my opinion about the long term solution for poverty would be to make sure that all government funds and appropriation will surely be spent wisely for the people (and i doubt..would be a long term problem also..)

    here is a simple calculation for the pork barrel. we have 24 senators with P 200 million per year each and we have 250 congressmen with P70 million per year each ..20% of congressmen are partylist representatives..if i am going to multiply the amount of money with the total political seats mentioned, i got a total of P 22,300,000,000. (22 billions + of money annual).. not to mention the local government funds... the people cannot trace the whereabouts of these money all these years of our lives but the commission on audit should have the data..(data that are not mastered and doctored..)..simple calculation of our taxes money..

    and going back to RH bill, the third reading of this bill will make it into a law, and how many sessions could this be?..how much money spent in every session again and again since my birth?..time and money wasted..this could be a long issue..not only with this bill and some other irrelevant and redundant bills..

    huh!..so much to carry on our shoulders..but still i wish to ask God to bless the Philippines..

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    1. We are on the same wavelength in these points..How I wish our government officials and leaders would find heart to serve as honest as they could possibly be and spend people's money justly and correctly. But problems of corruption haunt and hurt our political system so bad that it needs genuine advocates of honest and people-centered leadership. So RARE in this generation..

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  10. ..with regards to the last paragraph and last sentence "educating the uninformed poor couples about the size of family"..we already have the designated government agency for that, we have the DSWD and DOH..(i wonder why even make the RH bill into a law, DOH ever since already introduced the artificial family planning..) all the nurses and doctors in my family and relatives are all advocate of that because that's what they are taught in school..they have been doing all the community health nursing lessons to the poorest families and so with all the nursing students (..huh! i cannot blame them for all the lessons they learn in school..lol.)..but anyway, its their choice..
    DSWD also are designated for the social welfare and development.. luckily, i also have brothers and priests in the family who are also advocate of the natural family planning..but i have made my own stand..

    ..it is already in the mandate of these government agencies to look after the welfare and education of poor families..

    RH bill is something for the congress to be busy about..hehe

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  11. Whatever achievements we have in life or whatever beautiful place we have been in the world, we must not forget that everything comes from the Lord. We must be grateful and thankful all the time for the blessings because anytime it can be taken back. It is not because God favored someone better than others. It is just maybe for reasons known only to God and one must discern to know it. It is not also rightful that because we feel mature and intelligent enough in this life, we question and challenge the people representing the Church. Challenging the bishops and priests in paragraph (16) may not be the best lines uttered. Our choices may not always be God’s choices, our plans may not always be God’s plan and our will may not always be God’s Will. The priests are the one’s chosen to represent the Church and we cannot fathom His wisdom about it. The Church will always be prolife because there is enough for everything and everything created in this world are enough for man’s needs.

    You may look at the priests like they have everything but no, they have nothing except the Lord. Everything they wear, eat and shelter came from the people because that was made as a covenant when God said to the Levites (the tribe chosen in the old testament to become priest) to leave everything in life because everything will be provided along the way. Religious priests takes the vow of poverty but diocesan priests do not, however they all live an austere manner of life.

    Those who advocate the use of artificial method of family planning that are not amongst the poorest are the one’s who do not get out of their comfort zone but rather want pleasure all the time. It is hard for them to accept the natural method because it is something hard, heavy and burden to them. But it is only through fasting and abstinence that everyone can hear the Lord and be in complete discernment with God.

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  12. In paragraph 8 (looking for the verse?), you cannot find in the scripture that the use of contraceptives is not a sin because people wants to look for the words literally but it is there in the books of Matthew and Corinthians that we must not look at everyone with lustful intent. It is not love but it will all lead to lust to satisfy one’s desire of flesh. These are all the consequences by committing ourselves to be married with someone and we’ve made a vow with God about procreation. We have to accept that it will all lead into lust and these are worldly things which is hard to avoid if we do not walk along with the Spirit to guide us. People become tolerant of sin in a way to justify it to suit man’s weakness and therefore submitting oneself to the temptations of Satan. One main solution for this problem is for everyone to pray to God and be sincere like how Enoch did in the Old Testament. If all the 80 million people of the Philippines will sincerely pray about this, everyone will be enlightened with their choice. I do really believe in the power of prayers. Why we are facing this temptation? It’s because not all the 80 million people do pray.

    What happen to all violators once this bill becomes law?..The violators will be penalized and may end up in the jail. The country cannot afford more people in the jail..Instead, the designated government agencies like the DSWD must be enhanced to look after the welfare and development of the people.

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