Saturday, September 4, 2010

On being Pro-life and a Personal Sharing

by JC de los Reyes

Good morning. Allow me to greet all those who work in the vineyard of the Lord. The pro-life / pro-choice controversy is jam-packed with issues but since I was tasked to speak on the issues confronting the pro-life movement I will begin with a background and history of the Philippine Population issue vis-à-vis my own experience which are drawn from these perspectives;

1. As a son of Sonny de los Reyes, former Executive Director of the Commission on Population.
2. As a graduate of theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville
3. As a member of the Ang Kapatiran National Political Party which has an explicit party platform to defend and uphold a consistent ethic of life

I was in my pre teens when my father was appointed Executive Director of POPCOM in November of 1981. I remember how the family threw a party to celebrate his appointment. I remember the new car, his big office in Mandaluyong, his friends in government. Little did I know then that his stint at POPCOM would change our lives forever.

As a backgrounder, it was pursuant to the 1973 Constitution that depopulation policies started to gain momentum in our country. No less than the preamble of the 1973 constitution provided the fundamental principle which was “to manage population levels and growth rates” in our country. It was when Marcos signed Presidential Decree #79 that the Population Commission was created. It would be government’s lead agency to spearhead an aggressive national population control program.

It is interesting that in the early days of POPCOM, even the Catholic Church was represented on its Board, until the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines decided to distance itself from the Government’s gradual involvement in population control by withdrawing representation on the Board of Trustees.

POPCOM was to be the office for the flow of funds from three principal funding agencies: the World Bank, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities and the United States Agency for International Development. The Asian Development Bank subsequently became a significant player.

All these funding was pursuant to the infamous National Security Study Memorandum No. 200 by Henry Kissinger who authored it in 1965 – by now a classic in geopolitical engineering—mandating the creation and funding of massive population control programs in 13 countries identified as having high population levels and growth rates. The Philippines was one of these 13 countries.

A National Family Planning Office was created in the Department of Health. Two major private institutions were also created to support the government program: the University Of The Philippines ’ Population Institute and the Population Center Foundation, which augmented the program with research utilization capability. As the program moved along, bilateral funding from Japan, Australia, Canada and a few European countries, and project funding from private agencies supplemented the population war chest.

POPCOM evolved to be a powerful mini-Cabinet formed among Trustees representing major government players in population control, namely, Health, Labor, Local Governments, Finance, Social Welfare and Economic Development.

What was its objective? To reduce the growth rate and level of population to what it believed to be manageable, conducive to “sustainable development.” This level and rate were determined by external agencies like the Population Council based in New York.

This is a prelude to set the stage for the present population controversy the personalities of which will be the Filipino people as a church and the government backed up by International Development/Funding Agencies. With this stand off, there was no other way to achieve this in a country whose population was significantly Roman Catholic except to aggressively promote modern family planning methods.

On the promotion of modern family planning methods, there is a crescendoing debate probably now on its peak on whether or not such is safe to the health and wellbeing of the Filipino people.

Many of those who are critical of our advocacy would almost always automatically try to destroy our argument by stating the fact that the principle of no abortion is constitutionally guaranteed. This is one of two principles they argue to purposefully kill the debate, the other is the principle of no-coercion.

Simply put - information and availability of Modern Artificial Contraception is what they want and that an individual should rise above his or her religious convictions to be able to make an informed choice which is the rationale of no-coercion. These are the 2 cornerstone principles pro choice advocates argue to get their message across.

To elaborate, while the Philippine Constitution has never legalized the termination of the life of a living infant, a serious debate has centered on the question: At what moment does the fertilized egg become a viable fetus? When does contraception degenerate to abortion? This issue is a critical one which for a pro-choice advocate would be critical to answer because most family planning methods have been identified as abortifacient.

The principle of no-coercion is made the basis for the definition of reproductive rights and reproductive health care. This could be explained better in the context of a typical barangay health center where they offer the entire range of contraceptive methods and devices to the potential “acceptor,” cafeteria approach. With ample information on the pros and cons of each family planning method, the objective is to elicit an informed choice.

The Problem is field realities like unmotivated bureaucrats in the barangay health centers, the lack of resources to effectively reach the people as the Philippine Health system does not reach more than 40% of the total population, limitations on public utilities and infrastructure, unavailability of trained medical personnel, and often sheer incompetence, all are factors to conclude that this principle does not work.

For practical reasons, contraceptive pills and intra-uterine devices are most frequently endorsed despite the fact that most contraceptive pills have abortifacient side effects, and that the IUD is a proven abortifacient.

Male vasectomy and female tubal ligation in the Philippine population program has capitalized on the vulnerability of people in poverty-stricken barangays. Declared legal by the Supreme Court during the martial law regime, sterilization has become a major program strategy for population control. It is ‘encouraged’ by the RH Code.

It is culturally shocking that this permanent and irreversible surgical procedure was hardly resisted by Filipinos, considering that it was a major form of genocide in Europe and the Middle East, and the major cause of riots in India as a violation of their religious beliefs. The VSS is considered to be the most cost-effective method but the dangers, such as peritonitis and psychological depression, were hardly mentioned, and usually ignored when they arose.

We must be aghast that this is promoted as a minor and painless surgery when the ideal administration of surgical sterilization is of course, as in any surgery, in a well-equipped hospital with sanitized facilities.

What is more alarming is the manner in which the surgery is conducted. As many as 100 together in any nearby clinic they would queue for their turn on makeshift surgical beds lined up side by side 10 to 15. Indonesians called this a “safari.” A doctor and nurse would then conduct the mass surgery and finish them in a weekend. But besides the doctor’s fees of about Php 500 per patient subsidized by the program, what they pay the patient as incentives are really bribes to undergo the procedure. The sterilization patients were granted an average of 5-days of no-work compensation (even if they were unemployed\), free antibiotics for the convalescing period, and transportation allowances.

Finally, the “cafeteria approach” does not include all the methods of fertility regulation. It was only in (1995) when the population control program included a specific natural family planning process (NFP), as it tried to appease the Catholic Church - the Billings Ovulation, which is taught within the context of a matrimonial relationship and not merely as training on physiological manipulation.

These are the realities that expose the dirty tactics of the population control program. The thrust of these policies has expanded to address issues such as AIDS Education, Adolescent Fertility, Sex Education, Reproductive Health—all in the agenda proposed by the 1994 World Population Conference in Cairo and the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing. Population control propaganda is directed at surrounding the acceptor with messages and institutions that reshape their values, limit their freedom of choice and lead their preferences toward the more effective methods, particularly abortion.

Terminologies and statements contained in the two U.N. World Conferences have then been incorporated into new and recurrent legislation, RH Code, CSR Ordinance, GADA, Women’s Code all these invoke words contained in the World Conference Statements, so that definitions and interpretations of these statements will be forced upon our interpretations of the law.

The object is to slowly desensitize by starting at it softly like the legalization of abortion for specific causes, the advocacy of divorce and same sex marriage. These moves in legislation are supported by Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).

In regard to sex education, the Adolescent Health and Youth Development Programme adopted by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports seeks to develop a new breed of youth. The program was launched in 1995, and integrates a value-free approach to sex education in schools. Subtly it is to desensitize the youth to the intimacy and sacredness of sex. The program tends to reduce the youth’s appreciation of sex: from an expression of love within the context of marriage, to merely a practical understanding of it as a function of the body that can be manipulated and used to achieve pleasure and to forego inner discipline.

With the election of President Obama, expect that the population control program will grow more visible and vocal in media, e.g., advertising of condoms, third sex celebrities, sexually explicit bill boards, available pornography – and it will still get worse.

The materialist and individualistic world view today which stems from human arrogance and materialistic greed will continue to negate and marginalize marriage and family where society sees pregnancy as a disease, childbirth as an aberration, and children as parasites. It is a pedophobia of the intense kind or a fear for children the world has never seen. The young men and women of today are being taught to be selfish hedonists rather than to be men and women for others. They are brainwashed to own and manipulate their world rather than steward it and share it such that all God’s children especially His poor beloved could have the fullness of life, here and now.

On a more personal note, my father once had that world view; in fact he was once, one of those who zealously propagated it once upon a time. He was enslaved and blind to the ways of such deadly anti natalist ideology.

As I mentioned in the beginning of my talk, his short stint at POPCOM changed our life. I could vividly remember how the guest rooms in our house at Makati would serve as warehouses for Tahiti Brand condoms, thousands of them, as well as contraceptive pills which looked like m&m candies. I, my brother and sisters would casually play with these as if there was nothing wrong with them. Perhaps, in our innocence, they were simply toys and we would fill the condoms with water and throw it at each other.

Hindsight makes me tremble at the thought that papa opened the doors of our house to these inventions of man to engineer and manipulate life at any cost. He allowed his own children exposed to things that symbolized man’s desire to disobey God and to choose modern day idols that debased the sacredness of the sexual act. No doubt it invoked some destructive force as it was the culture of death that my father was promoting.

In March of 1982, under severe pressure from international funding agencies, he led POPCOM to issue the call to “Stop at 3.” This was cheered by the more than 50,000 full-time population workers and volunteers deployed in over 70 Philippine provinces and funded by USAID.

My father, in his later public confession had a sense of discomfort. He was leading a government program chanting Stop at 3! Stop at 3! But we were…4. How could he ask the nation’s families to call for a family size of 3 when he were 4.

The terrible answer came swiftly; a month later, April of 1982, as she was visiting my grandmother for summer, my 10-year old sister Maricris was murdered. A man high on drugs had broken into our lola’s house in Olongapo to rape Maricris’ yaya who slept with her. My sister woke up; and to silence her, the man hit her on the head with a lead pipe.

During later years, my father reflecting on Maricris’ death confessed publicly that just as Christ died for us in the cross for sins he did not commit, Maricris or Christine, her real name was his ‘little Christ,’ the one who bore his sins, who suffered the pain that he deserved because of his hardheartedness. It was the spiritual force of his sins that got her killed.

His quest for worldly glory and his intellectual arrogance failed him in seeing simple truths…that human life transcends statistics or economics, human life cannot stagnate at the material level, it transcends this too. He saw that it was only when you grasp to some extent the nature of the giver of life that you will gain a human appreciation of life….And he is God, the instrumental and mediative cause of creation …he is the author and usher of all life…life which is the first and fundamental good, without which no other good is possible.

My father’s life and conversion from population czar to pro-life champion is itself a victory of life. Grace always overcomes sin and like the conversion of Saul, my father metamorphosed into one of the most aggressive defenders of life in the country. For even in the most violent poverty of spirit or of situation, it is not beyond the hope of being transformed, where there is life, it is always said…there is hope. Conversely, where there is no life, there is no hope. These are to me the firmest foundation of all that we do for pro-life.

Yes, there is hope that this movement will prevail…that this country will prevail. As long as there are willing vessels, saying yes to the Lord, there will be defenders of life in congress, in local governments, in our schools, in our parishes….in our nation. The garden of vocations still for pro-life work is a pro-life family as the garden of vocations for future political leaders who will work for pro-life is a pro life political party.

To end let me declare that life is purposeful and let me quote God in Genesis 9:5 ‘From man, in regard to his fellow man, I will demand an accounting for human life.’

(for comments please email or text 09189341974)



De los Reyes, Jc. On being Pro-life and a Personal Sharing. [Speech delivered during the Quezon City Pro-Life Convention, 26 February 2009].

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