PHILIPPINE RH BILL: THEN AND NOW (Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon)


I wrote this piece back in 2008, and to those who are not familiar with the ancient mysteries of arithmetic, that’s four years ago. It’s easy to write, actually, especially if the idiotic issues keep coming back like the Return of the Dead, for instance, the controversial RH Bill in Philippine Congress.

The Catholic Church has insinuated — but has since withdrawn — a possible Excommunication against President Noynoy Aquino.

A courageous tour guide named Carlos Celdran disrupted a mass proceeding at the Manila Cathedral, dressed as Jose Rizal and screaming Padre Damaso (the fictional despicable friar in the novel Noli Me Tangere). 

And I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of this religion thing.

When did religion get such a good name, anyway?

Be it the Crusades, the Reformation genocides, the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, mass slaughters supposedly in the name of God and Allah, and then, of course, the obligatory reciprocal retribution. Hundreds of millions of people have died in religious conflicts.

Hitler did his business in the name of his Creator. 9/11 was an act of religious extremism.

If we’re not ready to strip religion of its sacred cow status, how about we at least scale back a little on the constitutional dogma exalting it as all get-out?

It’s amazing really, how Big Religion has dominated global politics. I mean, here we are with a bunch of organized groups professing an entity no one has really seen, espousing dogmas from an Almighty Creator no one has really heard, and promising an afterlife no one has really been.

In Christian persuasion, they turn water into wine and ram down your throat that — regardless of scientific evidence — a virgin did give birth.

And no one calls it fraud.

And then they ask for your money.

But they don’t pay any taxes to any government in any part of the planet. To top it all, you have to abide by their dogmatic views and pressure the government to adhere to such dogma.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or Christianity … it’s all the same when it comes to the influence they wish to exert on the government. Take, for instance, Indonesia. Isn’t the rightist wing trying to convert it into an Islamic state? Look at the Philippines, hasn’t the Catholic Church done enough influence to dictate government policies?

Yet none of them pay a single cent to the government.

Render unto Ceasar’s what is Ceasar’s.

Pay your taxes the way everyone else does, then you complain and dictate which policy your government should be creating.

A friend actually remarked that a few bad apples in the Catholic Church may have exaggerated the situation on pedophilia. Here’s a data gathered by CNN in the course of its investigation.


At the time, there were four bills pertaining to reproductive health and/or population management that have been filed for deliberation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the 14th Congress. These are House Bill No. 17 authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman, House Bill No. 812 authored by Rep. Janette Garin, Senate Bill No. 40 authored by Sen. Rodolfo Biazon and Senate Bill No. 43 authored by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

The most controversial of these bills is House Bill No. 17 authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman. This bill, according to Rep. Lagman, promotes information on and access to both natural and modern family planning methods that are medically safe and legally permissible. It assures an enabling environment where women and couples have the freedom of informed choice on the mode of family planning they want to adopt based on their needs, personal convictions and religious beliefs.

House Bill No. 17, also known as the proposed “Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008,” will cover the following areas:

  • information and access to natural and modern family planning;
  • maternal, infant and child health and nutrition;
  • promotion of breast feeding;
  • prevention of abortion and management of post-abortion complications;
  • adolescent and youth health; prevention and management of reproductive tract infections, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases;
  • elimination of violence against women; counseling on sexuality and sexual and reproductive health;
  • treatment of breast and reproductive tract cancers;
  • male involvement and participation in reproductive health;
  • prevention and treatment of infertility; and
  • reproductive health education for the youth.

The bill is controversial, as it is being opposed by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is against the use of artificial contraceptives.

Rep. Edcel Lagman, however, says that the bill does not have any bias for or against either natural or modern family planning. Both modes are contraceptive methods with a common purpose of preventing pregnancies.


By N. Mark Castro

In my youth, I vividly recall the time when I took pride in the practice of Catholic religion in the Philippines in that it has in no way interfered with the affairs of the state.

I looked at Arabian countries and pitied its citizens that their religion pervaded (if not invaded) the very independence that even God dared not tamper. Their blind subservience, I thought, was at least not demanded in the Philippines.

I was an idiot then.

According to Teresa Carojano of the Associated Press: “The country’s [Philippines] population has been growing by more than 2 percent per year and is projected to reach 90 million this year.”

And yet, despite that alarming rate, the Philippine Catholic Church continues to fight tooth and nails the practice of scientific family planning.

Despite being the only and largest Christian country in Asia, its hypocrisy reflects the fact that “about 473,000 abortions, or one third of the estimated 1.4 million unplanned pregnancies, still occur in the Philippines yearly, while two out of five women who want to use contraceptives don’t have access to them, the UN Population Fund has said.”

The Philippine Catholic Church insists on “natural family planning” and any congressional attempt to promote a “mandatory reproductive health and sexuality education in primary schools are frowned upon by bishops.

How did we get here?


The Vatican – voicing God’s Infinite Wisdom – chose to appoint a Cardinal named Sin.

I couldn’t make that up even if I wanted to.

Ever since he promoted “abstinence” as the key to one’s purity, every succeeding cardinal or bishop or monsignor or priest or pastor or whatever it is they call themselves these days insist such in schools: private or public.

We may debate all we want on the statistical ratios between abstinence and teenage pregnancies, but you couldn’t discount the fact how ludicrous such a program would be.

You may say that, globally, teen pregnancy rates have dropped since the abstinence program has been in effect. And you can argue that the numbers don’t lie.

But which numbers? Sexually transmitted disease rates amongst teenagers who pledge abstinence are the same as for the teenagers who don’t. Statistics also show that abstinence pledgers are less likely to see a doctor if they do get an STD, less likely to think they’ve got it, turns out the pledgers are more likely to spread STDs.

Oh sure you may bottom line it that teens who abstain from sex don’t get STDs.

But here’s a wake-up call bottom line, teens who aren’t taught sex education, including contraception, are more likely to die.

You might argue that if I don’t like it, I should take it up with my Congressman. That the school couldn’t do anything else because it abides by its policies which, ironically, are deeply imbedded on Catholic / Christian values since almost 80-90% of academic institutions in the Philippines are run by the religious right.

And lacking educational options in the Philippines, kids are being sent to slaughterhouses where you pay with your arm and your leg. You might have an expectation of your children being taught and cared for, but don’t expect a warning that your children’s welfare would come second to Catholic policies.

Yes, we all agree that fifteen is too young to be having sex. Is there anyone here who takes issue with that? Sometimes, when the right answer is “no” you say no. You don’t start tinkering with morality to coincide with logistics. Kids need to hear “no” not “here’s how, just in case” but “no”.

You might say that abstinence is the right answer here. And even if you are so determined to opt for pragmatism, abstinence is still the right answer. Since the implementation of this policy, more and more kids are choosing not to have sex. And that’s good. Whether they get sick or pregnant or not. And if parents disagree, by the way, they can choose to teach their kids about condoms and birth control pills and diaphragms. But once the school starts doing so, come on, you’re implicitly telling the kids it’s expected of them to be sexually active. And many start doing so because they feel all their friends are. Sure, we can pass out condoms. But it is simply more responsible, more moral and yes, more safe to practice abstinence. That’s what we should be telling them. And that’s what Catholic Schools are teaching, and with enough threat of a boycott to the state just to kick it in.

But this isn’t about teenage pregnancy. I can see why you would want to make it about teenage pregnancy or sexual promiscuity, since, well, actually I can’t.

The Philippines has one of the worst teen pregnancy rates of any nation in the Asia Pacific region. According to Marlon Ramos of the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “…the National Statistics Office showed that of 1.7 million babies born in 2004, almost 8 percent were born to mothers aged 15-19.

Almost 30 percent of Filipino women become mothers before reaching their 21st birthday … In 2000 alone, young mothers gave birth to 818,000 babies … this number could be bigger as births after March 5, 2005, were not recorded.”

And yet, despite that, this is still not about teenage pregnancy. You see, contrary to what the Philippine Catholic Church would like us to believe, there is no evidence whatsoever that suggests using condoms or teaching students about condoms makes them any more inclined to have sex. None. Kids are already inclined to have sex and have been since early puberty. They’re simply going to do it, we all do it. Birds do it, bees do it. Educated fleas do it. One day, even you might get the chance to do it …

Yes, this has nothing to do with the efficacy of abstinence only programs. Although a study conducted by has revealed certain questions on the effectiveness of abstinence-only program.

No, this isn’t about that.

This case is about religion, politics, education. According to Teresa Cerojano (AP / Manila) “Former president Fidel V. Ramos, the only Protestant ever elected to the presidency, “chided Arroyo last week for not having a comprehensive family planning policy due to “unwarranted subservience to the Catholic Church.””

The Arroyo administration, in blind service to the religious right, has transcended the separation of Church and State and consistently implemented a faith-based political and moral mandate. This is the same woman who usurped the seat of power from a duly elected official, no matter how ghastly he may have been; and this is the same woman who systematically cheated the succeeding elections in order to continue devouring whatever’s left of the country’s resources, natural or otherwise.

And now that same policy has been passed on to our educational system. Christian Schools in the Philippines are allowed to discriminate already: “If you’re a child of a single parent, you cannot even enroll if it’s the School of St. Bernard for the Dogs.

As a result, the students in these abstinence-only programs aren’t being taught the truth about that magnificent technological marvel, the condom.

That’s not a dirty word, Condom.

They first came on the scene some 3,000 years ago in Egypt. For centuries they wert merrily along in modified forms warding off syphilis, gonorrhea, preventing unplanned pregnancies, until science and medicine eventually caught up and the pill became a much more effective, less intrusive contraceptive. Penicillin and other antibiotics were miracle cures for gonorrhea and syphilis. The poor humble condom languished.

And then came AIDS … this terrifying new disease that panicked the world.

For many years, AIDS has been fatal, gruesomely so in every case. There was no vaccine, no cure, no treatment. But there were condoms, and they worked. They were safe, time-tested, easy to use, and they protected both partners. The condom is arguably the single most important invention of the past 2,000 years. In fact, it has been said without exaggeration that the health of the world depends on them.

Now one would think that the obvious choice would be for schools to tell their students as much. But Philippine Catholic or Christian Schools … indeed all Christian-run Philippine schools, that teach abstinence only, have chosen to lie. They teach that condoms are ineffective at preventing pregnancies, which is a lie.

They teach that condoms are ineffective at preventing diseases, which is a lie. Some of the literature actually compares using a condom to playing Russian Roulette, which is a frightening, despicable, unforgivable lie.

It’s curious to note that in Spain, which brought Catholicism in the country, runs an effective sexual education program. They even have a divorce. In Switzerland, as reported by Catholic News Agency as of March 08, 2010, they have started distributing condoms to battle sexual promiscuity.

It’s unbelievable, really, how we’ve sort of forgotten about AIDs in this world. Treatments have improved dramatically. Drugs are keeping people alive for many years after they become infected. But the Grim Butcher’s bill for this pandemic still keeps growing and growing. 65 million people worldwide have become infected.

One time unprotected sex can kill you. A condom can save you.

It is inconceivable that every child in the world isn’t taught that.

We should be in criminal court this very moment, trying these obscenely duplicitous Philippine Catholic Church or Christian schools for conspiracy to commit murder. I can point out the evils of this corrupt system. I can tell you how effective condoms are, the lives they save and on and on … but words seem to be these hollow, useless things rattling around in a court of public opinion. Because ultimately the lies these Philippine Catholic or Christian schools tell kids these days may … WILL probably kill them as they enter puberty.

And in the face of that, all I can think of is … why?


About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on August 27, 2012, in Fatherhood, General, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. There are good points in this article. At the moment, there are other issues the government whould focus on besides RH. There has to be more advocacy to share reproductive and health education to everyone, to avoid any health issues.

  1. Pingback: The Never-Ending Political Saga of Senator Tito Sotto, Plagiarist « Blink

  2. Pingback: PHILIPPINE RH BILL: THEN AND NOW (Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon) « Blink

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Charlotte Setijadi

Anthropologist & Contemporary Historian of Chinese Diaspora in Southeast Asia


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