By Jose Ma. Montelibano
This is the trigger of another controversy, just the trigger. The acrimony is coming from somewhere else, simply triggered to the surface by some of the words P-Noy used in a speech, and I quote from a news report,
“Aquino, in his speech at the University of the Philippines’ 100th Commencement Exercises, said he cannot stand by and watch the cycle of poverty continue amid unplanned births.
“Buo ang loob ko na maisabatas ang prinsipyo ng responsible parenthood. Mulat ako na may mga tutol dito. Subali’t obligasyon ko bilang pinuno na lumapit sa lahat ng sektor para kausapin at ipagpaliwanag sa kanila nang mahinahon. Kahit pa ang sabi ng iba ay dapat i-excommunicate na ako, kailangan po natin pakinggan maski na ang mga taong sa pananaw ng marami ay sarado na ang isip. Pero sa huli ay kailangan ko magdesisyon. Kailangan ko pa rin sundin ang aking konsensya kailangan kong gawin ang tama,” he said.”
It seems obvious that P-Noy predicated his conviction for a responsible parenthood program on the awful impact of unplanned births among the poor. After all, the rich have long been using artificial means for birth control. Who else has been the market for these products in the past several decades – without a peep from pro-life advocates (there used to be none according to the definition of pro-life today)? It might be coincidental, though not at all to me, that one of the lowest birth rates can be traced to the richest subdivisions in the land, especially in Metro Manila. And these same places have never been know to be bastions of natural family planning teachings and training.
To those who call themselves Pro-Lifers, the Responsible Parenthood Bill that has yet to be detailed, debated on, and finalized will be just another cover for the RH Bill they had condemned. That conclusion makes it understandable for P-Noy’s claim that there are those who are viewed with minds that are completely closed. After all, they are not waiting for the Responsible Parenthood Bill details; they have already decided that they will be against the views of Pro-Lifers.
Only the paranoid, those who had already pre-judged P-Noy, will take his statement as a challenge to be excommunicated. True, he can always decide not to be Catholic anymore. On the other hand, the Church does not have to ask permission to excommunicate him.
What is obvious is that the collision, not only of views but maybe, even more, of personalities, will bring conflict to Philippine society. As president, P-Noy has an obligation to stem the tide of poverty and its horrible consequences. As the Catholic Church, bishops and the lay communities they influence have an obligation to defend principles. I think both parties are are off the mark in their chosen paths of addressing their responsibilities. I believe that to focus on more or less births, and how to achieve either, are wrongly pointing to population as cause or answer to poverty.
Poverty has been around, varying only in degrees or in the kind of suffering it causes, when there was no debate about population. True, a poor family today with several children run the risk of experiencing hunger – and about 20 million Filipinos occasionally do. It is the intensity of the suffering that is aggravated when there are more children than food. Yet, all poor suffer. They are squatters in their own land, by birth. They are homeless, by birth. And they can go hungry, by birth. By simply being born poor, tens of millions of Filipinos are punished by a fate that is degrading and utterly painful.
A Pro-Lifer friend, who now prays for me because he must have concluded that I was for the RH or Responsible Parenthood Bills, says it not the Church that is to be blamed for poverty but the greed of the rich. How succinct, if only he can explain who the Church in the last 400 years played footsies with if not the rich, if not the powerful (and the government)? A cursory review of history will show how the greatest land-grabbing incident by the King of Spain crippled a talented and resourceful people after they were torn away from managing and operating their land. Greed, yes. And what did the Church do in the face of this greed? It asked, or accepted, land grants from the land-grabber.
As an institution that benefited directly, not only from the rich, but from the State or government, what has the Church done to atone? Has it said mea culpa? Has it returned all the lands granted or donated to it by those who land-grabbed, or were themselves favored with land by serving the land-grabbers? Does the Church realize that it is holding on to stolen goods? At least, the controversial Hacienda Luisita farm lands were paid for by the Cojuangco patriarch, not stolen or donated by land-grabbers.
As for those in government, especially those who are allegedly expert in economics, where did they get this idea that population control can control poverty? They cannot use their excruciating discomfort when they see the suffering of the poor as reason to justify a pattern of apathy, or exploitation, by pointing to the number of children a poor family cannot take care of. They poor cannot take care of themselves – so what do we do with them even if they have no or few children? What is the plan to eliminate poverty when the predicate is population? There will never be any better or convenient plan than condoms!
How about un-squatting squatters? How about rectifying a historical anomaly committed by enemies but perpetuated by our own government? How about the Church carrying the crusade against poverty by giving to the poor all the land it owns – except for those they actually paid for? How about paying damages for an extended injustice on the majority of Filipino who are poor? How about developing land where they can live, for free? How about building homes and communities for them, for free? How about teaching them to plant, to fend for themselves from the land or from technology – and support them with funds, not micro-finance? How about justice, how about Christian love?
“In bayanihan, we will be our brother’s keeper and forever shut the door to hunger among ourselves.”