Church hits plans to buy P1b worth of ‘protection’


Originally printed in a Philippine newspaper, this article tackles the Catholic Church’s opposition to the Philippine congressional proposal of allocating a billion pesos (approximately US$ 22.45M) for purchase of condoms and birth control pills. The Congress’s plan is in line with the country’s need to control population growth. Yet even with the good intention, the Church contends that the move is morally wrong as it is against God’s law. Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo says that they are all for population control but it can only be morally correct if done with the use of natural family planning. Archbishop Lagdameo also voiced out CBCP’s belief that population is not the reason for the country’s poverty and that there are “other grave factors”.

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Although not directly stated in the Manila Standard Today article, there is an implication of how the Philippines’ dominant religion influences decisions made in the country, inevitably leading to its contribution in the country’s underdevelopment. Being the only Asian country conquered by the Spaniards, Philippines is largely a Catholic nation. The Church apparently is very prominent in this Southeast Asian country that it commands influence even in its political affairs. And as demonstrated by the article in question, the Philippines’ Catholic Church is confident enough to hand out its opinions even on bills submitted by the Congress. In this aspect, the country may find a lot of difficulties.

It may be true that factors aside from the population growth cause the Philippines’ very slow development but one cannot deny that it sure is contributing to the poorness of the country. The country does have a high birth rate: 2.3% annually, one of the highest in Asia (according to Asian Development Bank). Because of limited budget, the Philippines must be able to cut back on its birth rate to be able to allocate more funds to necessary aspects like infrastructure, food, education, and the like. Natural family planning has been in effect in the country since time immemorial yet with the current figures it seems that the method is not working. The country seems to be clamoring for a more liberal method. And with their urban poor concentrated on earning money for their everyday food, surely condoms and birth controls are the last thing they would want to buy. But if the government is to provide them with the necessary ‘tools’ to prevent unwanted pregnancies, it will help in slowing the population growth. Therefore, this Congressional bill just might be what the country needs to aid its slow yet sure crawl to development. But if the Catholic Church, which is a really big part of the Filipinos’ lives, keeps on easing its way into these kinds of bills and on insisting what they say is “God’s way”, the Philippines will surely have a hard time choosing between traditions and progress.