is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:
The disappointing (yet unsurprising) thing about the twisting of the Pope’s words on condoms by the pro-RH advocates and some newspapers (probably the same thing; but this does not include BusinessWorld) is how incredibly sloppy it was done and how easy it was for them to resort to outright lying. The Pope never said anything even remotely near to what some of the local headlines hysterically screamed -- he never said condoms are permitted even to prevent AIDS, he never said condoms are the lesser evil, and he never said anything that effected even a slight shift on Church stand on contraception.
The Pope also did not impliedly agree to the "if one can’t be good then be safe" argument in relation to the "male prostitute" example. What he merely meant was: by using the condom, there’s a "basis" for thinking that the male prostitute is beginning to think of others rather than only of himself. It’s like teenagers settling for oral sex to avoid getting pregnant or bank robbers bringing guns to scare people but without bullets to avoid the possibility of killing others. Both indicate that the subject participants are starting to think of others rather than selfishly about themselves. But is the Church recommending people engage in illicit oral sex or to rob banks with guns without bullets? No. It’s saying, for the love of God and each other, stop all such activities. Period. The Pope, reverting to his teaching role, simply illustrated the possibility of a glimmer of hope that from the dregs of sin there could be "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way."
So, fine, it’s clear that the Pope did not change Church stand on condoms and contraception. But what does this have to do with the economy and trade, for which the Trade Tripper is supposed to be focused on? The simple answer: A LOT.
Contraceptives (according to international research) ruin female health, particularly causing dangers such as cancer (specifically breast cancer), stroke, and heart disease. Condoms also give a false sense of security (condoms fail at least 5% of the time), encouraging the illusion of "safe sex," thus increasing the possibility of AIDS or unwanted pregnancies (proven by international studies as well). Aside from, therefore, ruining the social fabric, contraceptives pose an imminent drain on our workforce and divert scarce government resources to attend to the damages that contraception brings.
Also, we know that our primary competitive advantage is our services sector, with the OFWs propping up our economy. Other countries, such as Japan and several European countries (and perhaps Singapore too), are having economic and social problems due to their ageing populations (i.e., not having enough healthy babies being born). Other countries, like China, are concerned about their scarcity of women. For the Philippines, having a healthy, youthful, dynamic workforce, to want to shoot itself on the foot and be like our competitor countries is idiotic.
Furthermore, we know that the best economic policy is good education. We also know that our government finances are limited. So why are we spending almost a billion pesos of our budget (as the RH bill will require) to distribute and promote contraception to our people? This is hundreds of millions that could have been better spent elsewhere, particularly on medicines, labor training, infrastructure, or -- most importantly -- education. And yet, while our government is willing to spend millions on contraception, it significantly reduced our education budget.
Finally, the RH bill goes against our Constitution. Note that there’s no law banning the private purchase of contraceptives. The Constitution does, however, prohibit discriminatory treatment against any single religion. The RH Bill discriminates against Catholics by forcing them to support (by mandatory promotion of contraceptives or through the duty to pay taxes) something they believe is immoral. The RH bill also goes against those constitutional provisions upholding the family as a cherished institution, as well as the rights of women and children.
Never mind the surveys. So what if 69% allegedly support contraception? Our government has strangely similar approval numbers considering that, in a span of only five months, it saw the worst killing of tourists in history, embarrassment in Vietnam by louts, wasted P5 million on a stupendously stupid tourism campaign, an unresolved fuel leak, peace negotiators rude to members of Congress, worsening traffic, increased terrorist warnings, Supreme Court rejection of the "Truth Commission," all topped off by this government’s obvious lack of direction.
So ignore the surveys. There’s a difference between what’s popular (or mentally incapacitated) and what’s right. Set aside religious doctrines, on definite and vital health, social, educational, labor, economic, and constitutional grounds alone, to oppose the RH bill is clearly the right thing to do.
For those reasons, Trade Tripper urges everybody to write or talk to their congressman and make them do the right thing: to vote against the RH bill.