By Thaddeus M. Baklinski
MANILA, February 16, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic Bishops of the Philippines have condemned the government's initiative to distribute free condoms in its attempt to fight the spread of AIDS in the poorest parts of Manila and other regions of the country.
The distribution of condoms started on 13 February at the initiative of Eric Tayag, head of the Department of Health and Epidemiology of Manila, according to an Asia News report.
Tayag indicated that the government's condom campaign would proceed despite a halt on debate in Congress of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, which encourages sterilization and the use of contraceptives, calls for universal sex education of children and pushes for a coercive 2-child family limit.
House Speaker Prospero Nograles ended debate on the measure on February 2 when he said it would not be discussed in the last two days of the current session of the House because it was “too contentious and had little chance of being voted on.” Any further debate was thereby postponed until after May elections when a new Congress will be in place.
The bill has been before the House for over four years but has been vigorously opposed by the Catholic Church and pro-life groups.
The new condom campaign features vans carrying a banner with the words “Are you sexually active?” that are making the rounds in poor neighborhoods distributing pamphlets promoting “safe sex” and condoms.
Tayag defended his initiative by stating the government was not footing the bill for the promotion. “The government has not spent anything for this initiative; everything has been funded by private companies and pharmaceutical companies,” he told Asia News.
“Is this a way to prevent transmission of HIV or is it only a way to encourage irresponsible sex which instead increases the spread of HIV?” asked Archbishop Theodore Bacon, Bishop Emeritus of Novaliches.
The bishops called on the authorities to promote marital fidelity, abstinence and responsible sexuality among the population rather than encourage irresponsible sexual activity.
“This campaign undermines the significance of human sexuality and love,” said Fr. Melvin Castro, secretary of the Commission for Family Life of the Filipino Bishops' Conference, “and deserves the condemnation of the entire population.”
Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the Archbishop of Manila, said that condoms and free sex are “not the way to prepare for the future, for looking for a partner and building a family.”
“We must go back to rediscover the purity of loving relationships, living relationships with loyalty and fidelity,” the cardinal said.
Asia News reports that 629 new cases of AIDS out of 88 million inhabitants were registered in the Philippines last year and that the country has one of the lowest infection rates in Asia, with about 9 thousand registered cases of HIV (0.01% of the population) and 308 deaths.
Thailand, by comparison, where state and international associations such as Planned Parenthood have carried out a massive campaign to promote use of condoms, has the highest percentage of HIV/AIDS in southeast Asia. In 2008, there were 610,000 adults and children living with HIV (1% of the population) and 31,000 AIDS related deaths.
The Asia Catholic Doctors Association (ACIM-Asia), echoing Pope Benedict XVI's statement that abstinence and conjugal faithfulness, not condoms, are the most effective methods in combating HIV/AIDS, have also condemned the distribution of condoms.
“Condoms are highly dangerous,” said Yolly Eileen Gamutam, head of ACIM-Asia.
Comparing the rate of HIV infection between Thailand and the Philippines where contraceptives are banned at present, Gamutam noted, “This only shows that the condom use program in Thailand is not effective,” and added, “Even if all brothels were required to have supplies of condoms, and if they were available in all supermarkets, bars, restaurants, and other public gathering places still it would not deter the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
“The Church will continue to educate people about the sanctity and the value of human life,” said Angelito Salazar, director of the Social Services Ministry of the Archdiocese of Manila. “We will continue to educate people to be pro-life and promote Church-backed natural family planning (NFP) using Church doctrines and papal letters as well as our own sense of pastoral and moral responsibility.”
See related LSN articles:
Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines Vows to Stop Passage of Reproductive Health Bill
Harvard AIDS Expert Says Pope is Correct on Condom Distribution Making AIDS Worse
Catholic Doctors Confirm Pope's Statement: Statistics Prove Condoms Ineffective Against HIV
Kenya First Lady: Condom “is causing the spread of AIDS in this country.”