Taking a stance

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I was reading the Manila Bulletin when I stumbled upon the article of former president Fidel V. Ramos in his speech at the World Population Day 2008 Forum on Population and the Millenium Development Goals held at EDSA Shanri-la Plaza, Mandaluyong City on July 11, 2008 and felt compelled to write what I think is an important issue all filipinos must become aware of.
The ruckus has been all over the media these past few days about the church's defiant stance against the house bill about family planning and contraceptive methods and I can't help but feel inept and powerless to do something, voice out my sentiments and choose a side to support, until I came upon the article and decided I had to write something about it.
I was once a roman catholic that decided to become agnostic because I believe that the religion itself is tainted by politics. I once believed that religion should unite peopleregardless of race, gender and social background but instead it divides people and cause disparity. "Religion should guide us to do the right and moral thing..." and "...must always seek the greater good of all our people." said Ramos and I believe him but that is not the case here. The church does not represent the voice of the poor nor does it realize the situation the poor face. They say the "natural method" is the way to go but do the poor understand? Our population is constantly swelling and all the church can do is stand there and say that the "natural method" is the answer. I strongly disagree.
The church is somehow oblivious to the real situation our country is facing. Do they know that in the latest SWS (Social Weather Station) survey, they found out that during the first quarter of 2008, 2 out of 5 filipino families, a total of 7.1 million families, considered themselves poor in terms of food? These numbers will certainly rise now that there is a surge in oil prices, transport, food and other basic commodities.
Do the church also know that researches done between the 1960s and 1980s about the correlation of family size and poverty concluded that "rapid population growth was more likely to hinder than to foster economic development"?
Do they also know that a recent study by the Asian Development Bank showed that only 23.8 percent of filipino families with 4 children are poor compared with 48.7 percent of families with 7 children?
A 2006 study done jointly by the UP Population Institute and the Alan Guttmacher Institute reported that "ignorance of family planning methods leads to 6 in 10 filipino women having unintended pregnancy at some point in their lives. This figure translates into a total of 1.43 million unintended pregnancies yearly." More than 1 million babies added to the population which stands at some 88.6 million and still counting so as we speak. UNICEF also stated that 225 filipino children die daily because of poverty-related diseases.
Is the church somehow playing oblivious to these statistics or are they just blatantly ignorant? What is obvious however, is the govenrment's inexplicable insensitivity to the issue by playing subservient to the catholic church inspite of all these reports coming into their senses.
The 2004 UN Development Report stated that "the predominantly catholic countries - from Ireland down to Mexico - enjoy high human development while maintaining very low population growth rates and fertility rates but the Philippines however stands out as a predominantly catholic country with a low human development index and finds itself in the same league as Bangladesh, an impoverished country. This is very dismal indeed.
The Arroyo administration has declared that the UN funding will be used to promote natural family planning methods under its responsible parenthood slogan, but does the message go across or fall on deaf ears? How many more of our money will be wasted or go on somebody else's pocket while our people especially the poor suffer? The government is not aware of their preposterous distortion of the concept of reponsible parenthood and the church is playing obstructionist status quo.
I decided that I can't stay silent about this issue. I made this article to voice out that I am not staying inept and I am taking a side, a side to save as many filipino lives and futures as I can. I support the congressmen that proposed and are fighting for the family planning house bill. I have the right to make an informed choice and I am doing it right now.
It is my hope that this message will be spread and like me, you can do something about it. Let us support the congressmen and the family planning champions to serve as channels for change for a better future. Let us support contraceptive methods for family planning and let us act now.
(Statistical data are taken from the Population Growth and Universal Right to Family Planning by former president Fidel V. Ramos at the Manila Bulletin Editorial Section dated July 17, 2008)


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