Jul 17, 2008

[Philippines] Population Policy Problems

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President of the Phil...Image via WikipediaFor the most part, the limited division between Church and State in the Philippines has always been more of a suggestion than an actual rule - much like our traffic laws, as a friend of my once quipped. While many will contest whether or not it's accurate to say that we are a predominantly Catholic country, what is highly evident that at least our government does seem to be very friendly to the Church and often lets major religious groups in the country clearly influence if not outright dictate national policy.

This has never been clearer than cases when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself is caught pandering to the likes of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) beyond just religious concerns in the public view. To have the Chief Executive herself allowing the Church's views to somehow curry more favor tells us how much their political favor is more important than the actual needs of the country from her trained economists' perspective. I think I can forgive most issues that aren't truly of consequence, but for something as sensitive as population control, I don't think I can forgive that.

As a third world country (and yes, that's what we are), very high population growth rates, especially considering the significant percentage of these gains to fall with families well below the poverty line, are definitely more bane than boon for the country's progress. All this does is increase the demand for all basic commodities without the needed growth in supporting industries to address the increasing demand. Thus in this setup, the poor get poorer as they try to support larger and larger families well beyond their means, thus further plunging them into the depths of poverty.

And all this being done to avoid issues that the CBCP and Catholics in general stereotypically frown against - artificial contraceptives and abortion. For the most part, I can't fault the Church for their views and opinions. As a religious organization following certain precepts and beliefs, they're well within their rights to be for or against certain things like these issues. However, it's not the government's place to take these views and use them as basis for national policy or whether or not laws should be crafted in support of such religious opinions. Former President Fidel V. Ramos has slammed President GMA's population policies at a recent forum for World Population Day given she has clearly taken in the Church's stand as her own.

As a way to side-step the issue, the President has pretty much copped out of making an Executive decision on this issue by passing the decision down to the level of the Local Government Units, claiming that there isn't a strong enough clamor for a change in national policy.

What is foul though is the Church going as far as trying to determine which politicians they deem to be "anti-life" in their perspective because of their support of legislation supporting artificial contraceptives and abortion practices in order to deem them unfit to receive communion. Now that's an unfair use of their religious influence to try and drive government action and national policy by playing the religion card in this manner.

As a nation, we seem to be very far away from coming to an actual solution in this matter. I doubt that our religious leaders are going to mature anytime soon and they will continue to be a driving political force in the country for years to come. At the same time, I doubt that we'll see significant changes from our political leaders either. While it can be argued whether or not they are truly concerned for their eternal salvation in making their decisions, it's more likely that they're perceived by their constituents in light of these issues and continued support of Church views is their way of ensuring their political futures.

And people wonder why I don't support organized religion anymore?
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