AT his 2012 State of the Nation Address, President Benigno S. Aquino III, has seen, rightly or wrongly, Responsible Parenthood as the answer to the shortage of classrooms, chairs and textbooks.
These are the exact words he said: “Bago matapos ang susunod na taon, ubos na ang minana nating 66,800 na kakulangan sa silid-aralan. Ulitin ko po, next year pa po ‘yan; 40,000 pa lang this year. Ang minana po nating 2,573,212 na backlog sa upuan, tuluyan na rin nating matutugunan bago matapos ang 2012. Sa taon din pong ito, masisimot na rin ang 61.7 million na backlog sa textbook upang maabot na, sa wakas, ang one is to one ratio ng aklat sa mag-aaral. Sana nga po, ngayong paubos na ang backlog sa edukasyon, sikapin nating huwag uling magka-backlog dahil sa dami ng estudyante. Sa tingin ko po, Responsible Parenthood ang sagot dito.”
In the natural course of things, there is hardly any logic to that. Unless, of course, one equates Responsible Parenthood with the overpopulation myth or the most contentious Reproductive Health Bill―which actually he grossly does. But granting that the good President meant overpopulation as the cause of classroom shortage, there is still no iota of plausibility because according to the National Statistics Office, the number of babies born per year has stopped increasing since 2000—and it even dropped by 2.2% to 1.745 million babies born in 2009 vs. 1.784 million babies per year in 2008. Thus from the national count, there is hardly any increase in Grade One enrollees because of the stagnant birth rate.
Admittedly, there is shortage of classrooms—and of almost everything—in Metro Manila and in some urban centers. And the reason is migration. The centralization of the population is the reason why in the rural areas classrooms are becoming less and less occupied. Well meaning demographers will agree that what is needed is not really population deceleration but decentralization. At the end of the day, it will all boil down to population and resource management or the lack of them—and not a careless legislation that grossly oppose the logic of even economics and ethics.
Seriously, it is disturbing, to say the least, to have political leaders with this kind of thinking. The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Jose Palma lately said: “It is therefore quite disturbing when the country is told that having too many children is a burden to the national budget.” But then, as said earlier, it is not even about having too many children because the birth rate is plummeting. But Palma says more: “There is a grave reason to worry when the government would rather suppress the population through RH Bill instead of confronting the real causes of poverty.”
Actually, even if the Congress legislates the Reproductive Health Bill every year for the next ten years—which, of course, is funny and sarcastic—life for Filipinos would still be the same, if not worse. Because, believe it or not, this bill is more of a problem than an answer.
Love of Preference for the Poor
IT is also a demand of Christ for his disciples to follow his own love of preference for the poor. This option takes on the greatest urgency in our country where a very great number of our people wallow in abject poverty and misery while tremendous social privileges and deference are accorded the rich and the powerful. The common good dictates that more attention must be given to the less fortunate members of society.
We as a Church, indeed, opt for all men, women and children of the world but above all, preferentially we opt like Jesus for the “little ones,” the poor and marginalized of our societies. This is an essential option of Christian faith, an obligatory choice. Eternal salvation depends on the living out of a love of preference for the poor because the poor and needy bear the privileged presence of Christ.
Our present Holy Father tells us that solidarity “must be present whenever it is called for by the social degrading of the subjects of work, by exploitation of the workers, and by the growing areas of poverty and even hunger.” He goes on to say that for the Church, this solidarity is “her mission, her service, a proof of her fidelity to Christ, so that she can truly be the ‘Church of the poor’.”
Such a love is a basic attitude that must pervade all plans and legislation for development, long skewed to favor the better off sectors of our society. In the Scriptures, the prophets were known for their denunciations of injustices against the poor. The Old Testament, in fact, views God as “liberator of the oppressed and the defender of the poor. And the Beatitudes clearly indicate how Jesus considered the poor and the lowly.
The value of being “pro-poor” has a truly evangelical basis. It urge us to be more concerned about the substantive issue concerning street children, the unemployed, poor fishermen, farmers and workers, exploited women, slum dwellers, sidewalk vendors and beggars, Tribal Filipinos and others at the margins of human and social life. . . (Acts of the Council, nos. 312-314)
―Acts and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, 1991
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