ALBANO weighs in on heavy population debate


(Note: Estanislao Albano Jr. has submitted many essays on population issues in the Philippines. For this post, he has graciously culled some of his ideas in previous writings, to come up with a nice light read that may perhaps unburden us and make our positions on the issues easier to arrive at.)

 

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has expressed its vehement disapproval of the alleged purchase by lawmakers of P1B-worth of condoms and other contraceptives in a bid to control the population growth. They say that it would be much better to use the money for projects that would ease the poverty and provide free education to poor children.

These bigots would never admit that there would be fewer of these poor children their hearts are bleeding for if only they do not fight so hard the population program of the government.

Dogma more important than people

A survey conducted by the Catholic for Free Choice, an international group, found that 77 percent of Filipino Catholics believe that condoms could do them good instead of bad as their clergy are insisting.

Perhaps these local Catholics have finally seen the foolishness of allowing celibates to dictate on their sex and reproductive lives. Personally, I do not see any logic in someone with dead sexual life talking about abstinence and safe periods. They cannot begin to imagine what ordinary people – those who have no seminary experience nor solemn vows to abstain from sex – are up against when sexually awakened. If it makes these priests feel any better, I strongly believe that there are even instances when Filipino couples caught in the situation do not use condoms – because in the frenzy of the moment, there is no more time to look for one.

The news says that the CBCP is badly shaken by the result of the survey because according to their lights, nothing should interrupt the natural purpose of the sexual act which is reproduction. The CBCP is alarmed by the wrong things. If I were them, I would be alarmed by the fact that 77 percent of my constituents do not believe me.

I would also be scared to death by the implication of the survey: despite 77 percent of Catholics using condoms, our population growth is still one of the most rapid in the world. What happens if the 77 percent go back to dependence on the judgment of the clergy?

But then, just like what I told you before, the CBCP does not care even if this country sinks under the weight of excess human beings for so long as their dogma against artificial family planning methods remains intact. That they get their way is more important to them than that their flocks live relatively better lives because they have less mouths to feed and less bodies to clothe.

Blind fools

There is no way you can reason with a fool who is convinced he is correct. Or who realizes he is wrong but is too proud to accept it.

Just look at Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, South Cotabato and

Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of San Fernando, Pampanga. They called on the government to stop blaming the current rice shortage on the growing population. Gutierrez contended that if the government is correct, then how come big families such as those of ex-President Joseph Estrada and Ramon Revilla, Sr. and Jr. are not affected by the current food crisis? In his eagerness to defend the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on population control which is expected to be put to question anew in the midst of the rice shortage, Gutierrez conveniently forgets that well-to-do families which form a very minimal portion of the population to start with are not the families that people seeking to rein in the galloping population growth in the country are referring to. If all families were like those of Estrada and the Revillas, then I am sure there would be no debate on the issue of the need to adopt population controls at all. It’s the families of the thousands now queuing for cheap NFA rice and other poor people in this country we are talking about. The families of those two women picked up by reporters from the NFA queues who asked on prime time news how on earth they could feed their big families with the little rice NFA is making available to them.

Trying to deflect the attention from the real issue, Gutierrez said that there many other ways to solve the problem one of which is to see to it that money intended for the improvement of agriculture should not be stolen. As one of the guardians of the morals of 85 percent of the population of the country, Gutierrez should know that effacing or just minimizing corruption in government is an impossibility otherwise it would have been achieved already given the fact that the clergy has been preaching against it for decades and it is only getting worse. In effect, what Gutierrez is saying is “Let hunger come upon the land. Just let the Church’s position on population control alone.”

On the other hand, Aniceto who, if I am not mistaken, is one of the bishops who sing praises to President Gloria Arroyo, declares that there is no relation between the rice crisis and population and that the present crisis is a “crisis in management of economy and resources.” To these blind fools, everything is to blame for the current situation we are in except the burgeoning population. The simple truth that if this country had only half of its current population and each big but poor family only has half the number of its children, the situation would be more bearable and more manageable is unacceptable to these prelates.

So by way of another solution, Aniceto asks for the moon and enjoins rice traders to be patriotic and not to hoard rice. He does not realize that even if the rice supply is stable and the prices affordable if there are too many mouths in the family to feed, chances are there will still be perpetual rice shortage in the family.

Even with the rice shortage now gripping the country and many entities including the European Union reminding the government of the need to curb its population growth, there’s no hope that the Roman Catholic clergy will budge from its irrational stance against effective family planning methods. These celibates could not see that even with many Roman Catholic couples defying the official policy of the church and using the effective artificial family planning methods, the population is still haywire so how much more if all couples adhere to their natural method pie in the sky? The trouble with these fools is that they assume all Filipinos have control over their sexual urges like they (Roman Catholic priests) do.

According to the papers, a papal representative who just visited the slums of Metro Manila has called on the government to step up its efforts to fight poverty and give the poor people of this country a better deal.

As would be expected, the Vatican official is blind to the participation of the Roman Catholic Church in the perpetuation of poverty in this country. Their churches and their schools fail to teach people to steer clear of vices and to practice thrift, hard work and other traits which lead to the improvement of one’s lot. The Vatican official should also realize that a major reason why families in this country never get of the hole is their shee sizes. Surely, he must have seen the crowding in the streets and houses in the slums he visited. And here’s the Roman Catholic clergy fighting tooth and nail any attempt on the part of enlightened members of Philippine society including congressmen to try and manage population growth before it is too late.

RC priests want country to be poor forever

With the population growth rate (PGR) in the country standing at 2.04 percent which translates to roughly 2M babies a year, our population will grow to 94 M in 2010.

Life is so hard now in this country with its current population and it will definitely get more difficult once those additional mouths to feed join us. More so that 95 percent of the 2M babies will be born to families who could hardly afford to make both ends meet with their current sizes.

Despite the dire prospects brought about by the ballooning population of the country, the Roman Catholic friars are very happy our PGR is not going down because it indicates they still control this country.

By contrast, the PGR of Thailand which in the 70s had almost the same economy and population as the Philippines is less than one percent. That’s because while the local Roman Catholic friars fight tooth and nail the use of contraceptives, Thailand has been aggressively promoting the use of condoms to limit family size and to fight the spread of HIV.

The Roman Catholic friars do not want us to progress like the Thais. They want us to remain as poor as we were during the Spanish time when their word was law in this country.

Obfuscating the population issue

When it comes to justifying and defending their anti-population control stance, the Roman Catholic (RC) clergy will stop at nothing. They will highlight some facts and ignore or play down some realities to make it look to the public that their position is correct. In short, they will stoop to deceiving their constituents to frustrate efforts to improve the situation in the country by reining in its runaway population growth.

Just look at the full-page article of Fr. Gregory Gaston in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on January 3,2010. Gaston made much of  the so-called ageing and decline phenomenon now affecting countries where the total fertility rate (TFR) has fallen below the replacement levels saying that in these countries, “a huge number of the elderly have to be supported by proportionately fewer people.” He said that if the intent of population controllers to bring down the country’s TFR below the replacement level and keep it there so as to enjoy the economic advantages of having to care for less children and elderly will succeed, a disaster will occur because the Philippines is not rich and it does not have the money to support the ageing population and to hire foreign workers to replace its dwindling workforce. This, he warned, is already happening in some countries and they are encountering serious economic problems as a result. To remedy the situation, according to Fr. Gaston, these countries try to encourage their people to bear more children but to no avail. Fr. Gaston talked as though the danger is imminent claiming that if the current decline in the country’s TFR persists, we will probably reach below replacement levels in 20 years.

In painting this incredible scenario of this extremely prolific race getting in danger of extinction, Fr. Gaston forgot or intentionally left out some facts so as to make his conclusion believable. First, the country is already overpopulated. Of course Fr. Gaston and the rest of the RC clergy and their laity supporters will contest that saying among others that our population density is way below that of countries such as the Netherlands and Singapore. They will never accept that the situation of the two countries is different from ours. They again conveniently play blind to the reality that the country is already overpopulated because the human population-carrying capacity of its environment has been exceeded. Look at our overfished seas, the dead rivers, the vanishing forests, the reduction of our farmland area due to development. All these indicate that the current population is already too heavy for the country’s resources to bear.

This means that a reduction in the population will not hurt and would in fact be a welcome development as it eases the pressure on our environment. With lesser people needing firewood and wooden materials for construction of shelters, just perchance our dwindling forest cover will widen. With less people in the cities requiring water, just perchance there would be enough water to go around.

Of course Fr. Gaston and company have an answer to that like stricter implementation of environmental laws, etc. They would say that if only the government did its job and there was no illegal fishing and illegal logging, our resources would be enough to last us indefinitely. Which of course is sidestepping the issue. They blame a lot of things for the woes of this country but never overpopulation.

Second, Fr. Gaston forgot that the population of this earth started with just a single couple. The Biblical record is not clear as to how many children Adam and Eve brought into the world but I could bet that Filipinos especially those living in the slums and poor rural areas could top the first human couple when it comes to procreation otherwise we would not be one of the most populated countries in the world today despite our poverty and our relatively small land area. What I am saying is that with the abounding Filipino libido plus the encouragement from the RC clergy, there would never come a time in the life of this country that the government will have to coax couples to produce more children like Fr. Gaston is terrified of happening in the very near future.

Fr. Gaston denies that the RC is preaching to the people that they “go forth and multiply.” He said that what the RC advocates is for parents to “be guided and supported to attain the number of children they can generously and responsibly raise and educate.” Either Gaston is deceiving the readers or he does not know what he is talking about. Encouraging Filipinos to bear only children they can support and telling them to “go forth and multiply” is one and the same thing.

I am challenging Fr. Gaston and company to make a research to determine what percentage of Filipino couples first think of children before they hit the bed. I am certain that in that situation, the larger majority of Filipino couples are incapable of considering such things or even just the act of thinking itself otherwise we would not have these millions of families who could not clothe, give them decent shelter let alone send their children to school because feeding them already a next to impossible task. Let me repeat what I said here before that if the RC cannot post every night priests and other volunteers inside all shanties and houses to remind couples of what could be the consequences of the sexual act or to actually intervene when the couples do not listen, they might as well tell Filipinos to multiply like rats.

Fr. Gaston and company might be saying that answering the question “Can we afford another child?” is such a simple matter. I blame the fact that by reason of their vows, priests are never confronted by the question themselves otherwise they would have a better understanding of the population issue facing the country today. If only they are honest, Fr. Gaston and the whole RC clergy in this country would accept that most Filipino couples do not know how to answer the question properly and correctly much less act accordingly especially at night.

If the RC clergy believes that Filipinos could learn to answer the question properly and correctly before nightfall, just when will we see a massive campaign of the RC intended to raise the awareness and education of its flock to the required level? Or is their involvement in resolving the population issue of the country limited to articles in the media attacking the advocates of population control?

Near the end of his article, Fr. Gaston wrote and I quote: “Any economic, social and political policy proposed to solve poverty should take advantage of, rather than suppress, our abundant human resources.” Presumably to bolster his contention, Gaston cited a statement of Dr. Gary Becker, 1992 Nobel Prize winner in economic science, to the effect that human capital which refers to skills, education, health and training of individuals, comprises around 80 percent of the wealth of advanced countries and hence “ can be neglected at the country’s peril.”

Fr. Gaston is truly out of touch with Philippine reality and does not even bother to try to be consistent. His statement and that of Becker are contradictory. He admitted earlier in the article the possibility that the country will still be poor in 2050 and yet here he comes citing the case of how the human capital figures in the scheme of things in rich countries. Just how could the “abundant human resources,” this sea of excess humanity in this country, who are malnourished, uneducated and without real skills ever become assets to any society?

CBCP thinks Filipino Catholics dumb

In a pastoral letter issued ahead of Ash Wednesday, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales appealed to the faithful to help the Catholic Church feed malnourished children and their families, saying money saved through fasting can later buy food for the poor. Catholics traditionally practice abstinence throughout Lent, a 40-day period commemorating the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What I do not understand is that the incidence of malnourished children could be minimized or even prevented by not bringing into the world children one could not feed which could easily be done by using contraceptives. But the Roman Catholic (RC) clergy would rather deal with the resultant situation later instead of prevent it all because the means of prevention in this case goes against their unrealistic tenets.

As Filipinos struggle with a population it cannot feed and a dangerous population growth rate, rich Singapore is bothered by a fertility rate which dipped in 2009 to 1.23 babies per woman. This is way below the population replenishment 2.1 fertility rate. This prompted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to urge Singaporeans to make more babies this year. According to him, the recession must have made Singaporean couples refrain from having babies last year.

By contrast, Filipinos are not affected by things such as economic crisis when it comes to making babies. Just like rats, they never bother themselves with the simple question of whether they have something to feed the baby which may result from the sex act before the act. Throw into the situation a clergy which rejects the best means of preventing unwanted babies from coming into the world, then we have a disaster of the magnitude of the earthquake which hit Haiti waiting to happen.

Concluding that since condoms fail to prevent pregnancies 36 percent of the time, they may not also be able to prevent AIDS all the time, RC Archbishop Ramon Arguelles is suggesting that condoms should bear the following warning: “CONDOMS MAY FAIL TO PROTECT YOU FROM AIDS.”I have no problem with that. But in turn, since they fail in their function of teaching their congregation morality more than 50 percent of the time, I am suggesting that the RC clergy should also bear warning sign which states something like this: RC PRIESTS CANNOT TEACH YOU MORALITY MOST OF THE TIME.

You see, the RC clergy would not have this fear of condoms “encouraging promiscuity” and “weakening the moral fiber of the youth “ if they are effective in instilling Christian morality among their congregations. Were they effective in their roles, then we would not be hearing these shrill pronouncements whenever the word condom comes up because they know that their people are strong and solid Christians.

The latest salvo of the RC against the inanimate object condom is the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) statement calling for a ban on the advertisements of condom in media and public places. “Condom advertisements should be banned from television, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, and public places, as they desensitize the youth’s delicate conscience and weaken their moral fiber as future parents,” intoned Bishop Nereo Odchimar, CBCP president.

This is their reaction to the recent action of the Department of Health (DOH) to distribute condoms after the agency monitored the doubling of the deadly HIV-AIDS cases in the past year. In answer to the valid and urgent concern of the health officials, Odchimar sidestepped the issue by claiming that the lucrative condom business has been targeting the adolescents and would, therefore, imperil their morality and family life.

As far as Odchimar and the rest of the CBCP is concerned , it does not matter if this country will eventually be ravaged by the HIV-AIDS provided that the outdated RC teaching against the usage contraceptives will be remain untouched.

Senator Mar Roxas reacted to the latest foolishness from the CBCP by saying a ban on condom advertisements might constitute a curtailment to freedom of the speech advising the prelates that they should instead just prod their followers not to use condoms as it is within the prerogative of each individual to make such a decision.

Of course the comments of the good senator will be lost among the excited bishops who have no respect at all for the intelligence of the members of their congregations to discern the rightness or wrongness of using the best defense against HIV-AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. As far as the CBCP is concerned, the only way to guard their people against the evil item is to stop its production and distribution, sheer denial of the capacity of their flock to make intelligent and informed decisions.

Talking about the concern of the good senator that the ban might violate people’s rights, the CBCP does not mind imposing its will on people provided it is in the name of their tenets and it preserves and expands their power and control over people.

Still on CBCP versus condoms

According to the Manila Bulletin, the fertility rate of Filipino women has gradually decreased from the average 3.5 children in 2003 and to 3.3 in 2008. The figure was 5.1 children in 1983.

Now I am beginning to understand why the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is railing and ranting against condom lately declaring among others that the inanimate object breeds promiscuity and immorality. They know deep within themselves that only artificial contraceptives could be behind the drop in fertility rate they know that the natural means of birth control they are espousing is a sham. Because of that, they read the decrease in fertility rate as a sign that they are losing grip on Philippine society thus their seeing red and frothing in the mouth every time the condom issue crops up.

In an effort to thwart the Department of Health’s plan to ask showbiz personalities to help promote the use of condoms as a preventive measure against the spread of HIV and AIDS infection in the country, former CBCP president, Jaro, Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, has appealed to showbiz personalities not to allow themselves to be used by the DOH.

I am really puzzled that the CBCP does not realize that every time they use a public forum like the media to send message to Catholics, they are just telling the whole wide world that they are inutile. The truth of the matter is that except for a smattering the most notable of whom is Robin Padilla who converted to Islam showbiz is a solid Catholic community and what prevents them from gathering these Catholics to try and convince them about the wrongness of indorsing condoms?

May be it is just the comeuppance of these meddling bigots that despite the open obeisance they get wherever they go none of their people really heed them so much so they have to go to the media every time they want to drive home an important point. The trouble with that is every time they do it, they expose themselves as next to useless shepherds of their flocks.

In arguing against the usage of condoms, the CBCP is tying itself into knots. For one, they say condoms are not a surefire defense against pregnancy because 30 to 35 percent of condoms allow sperm to go through. Which means that 65-70 percent of the time, it prevents AIDS from spreading. Despite its effectivity against AIDS, they still want condoms banished from the face of the earth.

They also cannot accept and factor in the fact that couples engaged in sexual activity who strictly follow the church-approved methods, without using any means of contraceptive are vulnerable to being infected with AIDS because whether they like it or not, many, if not most, of the philanderers in this country are Catholics.

The only conclusion we could get now is that the CBCP does not mind members of their flock dying of AIDS provided they do not use condoms to prevent themselves from getting infected by the dreaded disease.

Malacañang has reiterated that it would not stop the condom distribution program of the DOH saying it is legal and consistent with public policy of protecting the public health.

That after GMA had pandered to the whims and caprices of the CBCP relative to artificial family planning methods for nine years, had given funds of the United Nations intended for birth control methods to the Couples for Christ group that was using the funds precisely to convince couples not to use artificial methods in preventing childbirth and had allowed condoms donated by foreign agencies to rot in the DOH warehouse.

Too late the hero. It is too late to reverse the damage done by the administration by kowtowing to the CBCP. There is no way the AIDS infection and unwanted pregnancies that could have been prevented had this administration prioritized the protection of public health from day one could now be undone.

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio III of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) claimed that politicians who are staunch supporters of the Reproductive Health Bill won in their bid for re-election because Filipino voters have no clear grasp of the reproductive health issue.

See what I told you before? The CBCP thinks Roman Catholics in this country – and that’s especially those who do not consider the prelates infallible and dare disagree with them – are dumb.

True to form, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has started trying to impose its will on the new President right away. They insisted that President Aquino should follow a 13-point agenda regarding current social issues which they have formulated.

Among the 13 demands from the prelates who think we are still in the Spanish era is the rejection by Aquino of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill and, of course, of their inanimate nemesis – contraceptives. What particularly caught my attention is that they also urged President Aquino not to allow demolition without relocation of urban poor families.

What these bigots do not see is that if the Reproductive Health Bill will be approved and more Filipinos would use contraceptives, there would be less urban poor to be relocated.

In a pastoral letter read in their churches the other Sunday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) demanded anew that President Aquino reject sex education and the Reproductive Health Bill. They even invoked the memory of his mother who they said toed the Roman Catholic position on population control during her presidency.

To try to explain away the obvious connection between poverty and population, the CBCP statement said: “We believe that poverty is caused by flawed development philosophies, plans and priorities, by corruption, by inequitable wealth distribution and access to economic resources and benefits, by poor delivery of social services, by unjust economic policies, and by imbalances in our political structures that favor the few and powerful over the many poor. It is social injustice that is at the root of poverty. And social injustice is simply another name for moral and spiritual corruption, the jettisoning of moral and spiritual values from private and public life. Would not the overwhelming attention to control population be a convenient way to ignore the greater causes that keep our poor people below the poverty line? These are the causes of poverty, the removal of which would comprehensively transform our social order and establish social justice.”

As far as the CBCP is concerned, once these problems are solved which they know could not be done because nations have been trying to deal with them since civilization began to no avail, the poverty in this country will vanish – and that’s even if by that time, all government services have bogged down and the environment no longer could support life due to the doubled or tripled population of the country.

Had Catholic bishops been watching television some nights ago and saw the story of the women who was nabbed for selling her baby for P10,000.00 as she has nothing to feed her four other children, I am sure they would persist in saying that the woman was driven to such extreme act not because she has many children but because she lacked moral and spiritual values. They would also maintain that her poverty is caused by the actions of other people such as robbing government coffers and bungling the laying down of economic policies, etc., etc. and has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that she and her partner have more children than they could feed and clothe. Of course they would also say that had the couple practiced natural family planning, they would not be in such a straits.

Granting that natural planning methods could really effectively keep the population of the country at manageable levels, just who is reaching out to couples like that of the woman who sold her baby with that alternative? As the number one proponent of the natural family planning method, isn’t it but logical that the CBCP should be at the forefront of the advocacy? If in its natural family planning advocacy, the CBCP is really motivated by a deep concern for the welfare of the Filipino people and since the government is a separate entity and there is always the chance that it will not adopt the church’s line, shouldn’t the CBCP be pushing the method on its own in the meantime? Alas, on this score the CBCP confines its population program merely to applying pressure on government decision-makers. No action on the ground whatsoever.

It is very apparent that in advocating natural family planning, the CBCP only wants to protect its sway over the Filipino people and over the government and is not really meant to make the life of the people less difficult through the limitation of the number of children in households.

Had the members of the CBCP also been watching television during the height of the water crisis in Metro Manila and saw all those poor people some of whom have not bathed for days jostling and fighting for the precious commodity, they would have blamed environmental factors and also errors on the part of the Angat Dam managers. While these are correct appraisal of the recent water crisis, they are not the full explanation of the situation. As far as I am concerned, had there been less people in the metropolis, there would have been less people dividing the limited supply and the crisis would not have been as grave.

Whether we like it or not, the water situation will get worse as our resources get depleted. That’s not only true with water but with other natural resources basic to human existence like food. The prudent thing to do therefore is to keep the population under control to stretch the remaining supply and of course, so that less people will suffer from the dearth.

But as far as the CBCP is concerned, Filipinos can all go hang for so long as there is no defiance against their teachings.

 

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