By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

MANILA, September 27,2010 ( – President Benigno Aquino III said today that the Philippine government will provide contraceptives to poor couples who request them.

“I think the government is obligated to inform everybody of the responsibilities of their choices. At the end of the day, government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method,” Mr. Aquino said, during a satellite television interview from San Francisco.

“But after saying that, I will not embark on a situation that forces couples to go one way or another,” he continued, saying the number of children a couple have and the birth control method they want to use is a matter of personal choice.

“I believe the couple will be in the best position to determine what is best for the family, how to space (the births), what methods they can rely on and so forth,” said Aquino at a town hall meeting with expatriate Filipinos in San Francisco that was broadcast worldwide. “They bear the responsibilities for the children that they are bringing in and government is ready to assist them.”

President Aquino's statements came three days after the United States and the Philippines signed a $434-million financial assistance agreement to help the Filipino administration “combat poverty and check corruption.”

Fr. Melvin Castro, executive director of the Catholic Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said Aquino's statement was a sellout to American ideology for money.

“It’s just a small amount compared to the moral values that we are going to lose,” Castro said in a press release. “Apparently for that measly sum of money in the name of fighting poverty, here we are again, selling out the Filipino soul. It’s just sad.”

“We prayed and hope that the President would see through it, that he would not tie the country to a US ideology in exchange for this grant,” he added.

Fr. Castro told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the Church had been expecting the government to carry out plans to provide contraceptives to poor couples following the U.S. financial grant to the Philippines. He also said that the solution to the economic problems in the Philippines could not be solved by the “demographic solution” of reducing the population.

“Because the problem is economic in nature, the solution should also be economic in nature … we expected it but it’s still sad to hear it come from the highest leader of the land,” Fr. Castro said.

Church leaders were “hurt more than being disappointed” with Mr. Aquino’s pronouncement Fr. Castro added, saying, “many sectors of the Church supported him and were hoping and praying that he will be like his mother.” Former President Corazon Aquino enshrined constitutional protection for the unborn child from conception.

See previous LSN coverage:

USAID Pushes Social Marketing of Contraceptives in Philippines

Bishops Urge New Philippine President to Shun 'Contraceptive Mentality'

Philippine Legislators Attempting to Resurrect Controversial Reproductive Health Bill

Philippine Bishops on Sex-Ed/Abortion: State Must Obey Moral Law