House Bill No. 5043, also called the RH or Reproductive Health Bill, is probably the first bill to address the overpopulation problem of the Philippines. It requires the provision of sex education as well as reproductive health services to the general populace. While this response may be a bit late, and the RH Bill is not prominent on the controversy radar, it is still relevant as the bill has not yet been passed and it continues to raise a storm of controversy, especially from the Catholic church.
I will focus on one prominent response from a Catholic entity because of how it alarmed me. Fr. Bing Arellano, spiritual director of the Alliance of the Holy Family International, posted a video response on Youtube stating why the RH Bill should be opposed. The video can be found here:
Fr. Arellano on the RH Bill
I believe each point he made deserved strong refutation, because those points are based on biased, poorly informed views and could do harm, despite the good intentions.
First, Fr. Arellano refutes the RH Bill’s two-child policy. He says the ideal family is from 5 to 7 children. Now this is only an opinion of a person, and for the church to dictate the ideal size of a family reflects an imperialistic attitude. Looking at it factually, 5 to 7 children is hardly ideal; it is more likely to put more children into poverty, given the economic condition of many families today. But the killer is this; nowhere does the RH Bill enforce a 2-child policy! It encourages two children, but “attaining the ideal family size is neither mandatory nor compulsory.” Fr. Arellano most likely depended on hearsay and did not read the bill. And hey, if parents today actually stick to two children maximum at this time, that would be better for the country.
Next, he slammed sex education at Grade 2. And again, there is more misinformation. The text of the bill indicates Grade 5 as the real target, not Grade 2.
Fr. Arellano’s condemnation of sex education as pornography deserves treatment here. This is the reaction of a medieval mind that rejects modern reason and logic. Teaching the children about sex at an early age will nourish them on facts and correct data. Pornography is meant to be anything but educational, and it can clearly be distinguished from sex education. Sex education does not ruin the conscience of the children. Delivered properly, it can prepare them and liberate them from myths for their adolescent life.
Ah yes, myths. I for one am tired of being told that thunder is St. Peter bowling in the clouds. I’m tired of parents telling their sons that if they kiss Nene, she will be pregnant. Such myths should be silenced once and for all. Facts should be taught squarely. This is what the RH Bill is trying to solve; leaving children in the dark about sex. This opinion of Fr. Arellano probably reflects an intention of keeping people dumb so that they can be easily manipulated, which the church in the Philippines has historically been accused of.
The urgency of proper sex education is reflected by high numbers of women who don’t know what their own body parts are! A recent survey showed that a significant number of Filipinas (23-30% if I’m not mistaken) believe that the hymen is a male organ, because it has “men” in the name! These Filipinas, ages 15-24, are the real target of the RH Bill’s sex education drive. And based on what has been shown above, this is sorely needed. It’s time to teach the kids right.
Now one of the most shocking things that I heard in Fr. Arellano’s response that many children means more labor going abroad… and he says that it is good! Filipinos leaving the country and becoming laborers abroad has long been recognized as a big problem. But Fr. Arellano says that it is not a problem!
Now this is a very cruel view. It says that many children should be born so they can be sent abroad as labor. It’s like slave manufacture. But the fact is that the overwhelming number of children contributes to poverty in the Philippines. It will strain the families who have more mouths to feed. The children may not even become successful laborers when they grow up because of their poverty. Fr. Arellano’s approach is to deny the problem, and to continue pushing out our people to other countries. This further demonstrates the local Catholic Church’s tendency to turn people into slaves, something that it has been doing since Spanish times.
And come to think of it, when laborers go abroad, they deprive the local economy of would-be human capital that could have helped develop local business. By pushing masses of people to go abroad, would not this sabotage the local economy? If so, the Catholic Church may be contributing to economic sabotage! A daring view, but when I connect the dots, I can’t help but reach this conclusion.
And if ever they do become laborers and get married, the laborers who go abroad tend to have extramarital affairs. Stories like these are too common for comfort. But Fr. Arellano still wants such people sent abroad, and thus the risk of extramarital affairs because of separation of spouses and family members exists. Oh wait… this… and the separation of family members! I thought the church and Fr. Arellano’s organization are family-oriented! But it encourages separating family members by sending people abroad, without considering the risk of exposing them to this risk of extramarital affairs! So the church is contradicting itself on family beliefs!
A very laughable notion is that the Philippines is the conscience of the region. Unfortunately, this is hard to prove, too easy to disprove. A country that has elected a known gambler, drunkard, womanizer and certified crime lord to the presidency could hardly be called the conscience of the region. Filipinos all over the world are notorious for shoplifting, scamming and fraud. There are stores that bar Filipinos for fear of shoplifting, and websites that do not accept credit card orders from the Philippines because of fraud. This is because Filipinos actually do these things! Moral conscience indeed!
Perhaps this is another way of saying that the Catholic Church wants to keep a strong presence in the region, because they’re trying to compete with the predominantly Muslim countries around us that are much more prosperous than we are. The church is probably scared of such countries, and like George Bush, considers all Muslims terrorists. But sorry, this is far from being a “conscience” in the region.
Fr. Arellano also believes that the RH Bill will lead to genocide. Again, this is an unthinking assertion, pure emo. Many countries have already legalized abortion, and it has not become a Holocaust like what the Nazis did in World War II. A holocaust is when so many people have been killed in one single time, like in thousands and millions. Now, would abortion in the Philippines reach that point? For me, it would be a greater holocaust to see so many children going hungry because their parents just wanted sex and didn’t care how many children they’d make from it.
There are valid arguments against the RH Bill, such as punishments when a company refuses to provide reproductive health services. This has been stated to be an attack on free enterprise, because it dictates how a company should conduct its business. I would agree that this is a part of the bill to work on. Yet I would rather let the bill pass, and the lawmakers can fix this clause later. But if you want to oppose the RH Bill, Fr. Arellano’s arguments are not the way to go.
Fr. Arellano says, “the real issue is about life.” I agree with that. But part of this real issue is to uplift the dignity of life. When children are born and left alive to be forced to suffer, their dignity is reduced. And this is equivalent to being dead. Children never asked to be born. While just not bearing children is the best choice for the couple, the problem is that Filipinos are hard-headed. They will engage in sex to enjoy themselves and forget problems even if it would lead to more problems later on because of the load of children. They even like sex with non-spouses! Thus, providing birth control measures is admittedly a stopgap solution, but it is a needed stopgap, and it will help avoid degradations of the dignity of life.
I don’t think people should worry about the RH Bill an as “abortion machine,” because it does not enforce nor require abortion. Rather, it just provides the environment for the service to be possible. In the end, the use of abortion is a personal choice that weighs on the personal conscience, not on the law.
Fr. Arellano’s response to the RH Bill is appalling. If it is the Catholic stance, it would do serious harm. It is possible that he made the response on impulse, and I do not know if he maintains the same stance today. But the impact of those ideas remains the same today; the idea that sending more people abroad is good (thus exposing the families further to separations of members) contradicts the Catholic Church’s claim to being a family-oriented church. These opinions also deny the population problem and other issues that are so clear for all to see, and will actually contribute to making people poorer.
Make no mistake, though. I am a Christian. But I doubt that Fr. Arellano’s opinions are Christ-inspired, because they only care about upholding certain “principles” at the cost of the people’s welfare. Opposing the RH Bill is not in itself wrong for me, but Fr. Arellano is certainly using the wrong reasons. If the Catholic Church supports these reasons, it is a significant contributor to the “damaged culture” of the Philippines and is one of the causes of why the country lags behind in comparison to the rest of the world. Clearly, the opinion of Fr. Arellano demonstrates how the people are kept in spiritual backwardness.
I think each one of us should make our own individual opinion and shake off the shackles of organized religion from our thinking in order to make a better decision and opinion. There are after all Catholics who support the RH Bill, and have no sear on their conscience because of it.