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Categorized | Organization, Politics, Society

On the "Position" of the University of the Philippines on the RH Bill

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Twin-Skies for finding the what looks to be the original petition, which looks even more disingenuous than the forwarded email below. Commenters who claim to be from University of the Philippines Student Catholic Action (UPSCA) have come forward to disavow the petition. We would like to clarify that the Filipino Freethinkers site has not made any claim that the petition originated from UPSCA, only that it was forwarded by a UPSCA member. We recognize that some commenters have connected UPSCA to the petition but we do not exercise editorial control on comments.

Author’s Note: The author claims full personal responsibility for the confusion regarding the origin of this petition. Although the author knew well that the petition was not an initiative of UPSCA, he failed nonetheless in correcting other members of the Forum when they made the mistake of attributing it to the said campus organization. As a result, the author removed the name of the aforementioned organization in the introductory part of this article.

A friend of mine sent me this infuriating message through e-mail:
“As faculty members, students and alumni of the University of the Philippines, we state here the bases of our objection to the Reproductive Health bills (HB 96 and its related bills) that are being deliberated under your supervision.

Given the secular background of UP education, we put forward arguments from reason, to wit:

  1. Population is not an obstacle to development. The bills assume that a nation’s population hinders its development that is why it pushes for the promotion of a two-children policy, massive distribution of contraceptives, sex education (to acquaint young people of contraception), and sterilization, all of which using taxpayers’ money.  However, as early as 1966, Nobel Prize winner Simon Kuznets’ research has shown that there is insignificant empirical association between population growth rates and output per capita (economic growth). Rather, it is the rate at which technology grows and the ability of the population to employ these new technologies efficiently and widely that permit economic progress. Kuznets saw that the basic obstacles to economic growth arise from the limited capabilities of the institutions (political, social, legal, cultural, economic) to adjust.  He argued instead that a more rapid population growth, if properly managed, will promote economic development through a positive impact on the society’s state of knowledge. His findings have been confirmed by similar studies by the US National Research Council (1986), the UN Population Fund Consultative Meeting of Economists (1992), Eric Hanusek and Ludger Wömmann (2007), among others.
  2. The government has to channel limited funds to jobs creation and education. The latest report of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) entitled Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2010 notes that the “middle class has increased rapidly in size and purchasing power as strong economic growth in the past two decades has helped reduce poverty significantly and lift previously poor households into the middle class.”  Two factors were reported to drive the creation and sustenance of a middle class: a) stable, secure, well-paid jobs with good benefits, and b) higher education. And so, why not create more bills that will strengthen these two factors instead of channeling our limited funds to contraception and sex education?
  3. Fertility rates in the Philippines are progressively decreasing. Our Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has declined by more than 50% in less than 50 years: from an average rate of 7 in 1960 to an average rate of 3.1 in 2008.  Our TFR is expected to reach the replacement level of 2.1 in 2025 without massive government intervention like the passing of a population control or RH bill. The passing of an RH bill will only accelerate this.  The latest November issue of The Economist entitled “Japan’s burden” spells out the effects of an aging population and it would be foolhardy for us as a nation to push ourselves deliberately towards that direction. In 2004, Joseph Chamie, Director of the UN Population Division, reported that 60 countries have TFR below 2.1 which means that they will eventually experience decline and aging.  He asserted that the efforts of these countries to raise fertility rates will not be enough to bring them back to replacement levels. Many of these countries are now asking their people to have more children. Why then are our legislators thinking of cutting down our best asset, our people? Should this push through, future generations of Filipinos will be forced to pay for the mistake of government’s intervention to manipulate a decrease in our population and suffer its ill effects as already experienced by other countries.
  4. The government has to channel limited resources to address the leading causes of death. In the latest available Mortality Country Fact Sheet (2006) of the World Health Organization on the Philippines, the following were listed as the main causes of death: lower respiratory tract infections, ischaemic heart disease, tuberculosis, hypertensive heart disease, perinatal conditions, cerebrovascular disease, violence, diarrhoeal diseases, diabetes mellitus and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  Can we not channel our limited resources towards curbing these diseases—and violence—instead of using them for contraception and sterilization?
  5. Condoms are not a wise investment. We have the lowest incidence of HIV cases after Bangladesh in the ADB report mentioned above, whereas Thailand, which has been regarded as the model in condom promotion, has the highest. European epidemiologist Dr. Jokin de Irala refer to “risk-compensation” as the reason for higher HIV-AIDS incidences when condoms are promoted.  Moreover, human papillomavirus (HPV), by far the most common STD and a risk factor for cervical cancer among other diseases, is not prevented by condoms. HPV spreads through skin to skin contact, unlike AIDS, and condoms cannot cover all possible infected skin—a fact that is not commonly known. Why spend millions to buy condoms when they are shown to increase incidences of STDs? A government-sponsored nationwide condom distribution will only fatten the pockets of condom manufacturers.
  6. Oral Contraceptive Pills (OCPs) have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as Group 1 carcinogens. OCP use has been associated with an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer in general (an increment of 19%) and across various patterns of OCP use, with the highest risk observed among those who use OCPs for 4 or more years before their first pregnancy (an increment of 52%), according to a 2006 meta-analysis of over 34 studies dating back to the 1980s.  Corroborating these data was the landmark 2002 randomized controlled trial by the Women Health’s Initiative which pointed to a 26% higher risk of breast cancer for post-menopausal women who had received hormone treatment in addition to 41% more risk of cerebrovascular disease, 29% more risk of myocardial infarction, and 112% more risk of pulmonary embolism. Another study by Moreno et al. in Lancet also points to an increased risk of cervical cancer with OCP use. And lastly, OCPs have also been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, especially venous thrombosis and ischemic stroke. Will our government legislate a bill that will use taxpayers’ money to further expose women to all these risks?

Our main argument boils down to this: that it is the State’s duty to order society by promoting the well-being of its citizens. Thus, it is a disservice to legislate what constitutes harm to its people. We pointed but a few of the studies showing the harmful effects of contraception to society, the family, the youth and women’s health.  While it is true that the State cannot stop people from using contraception, since they may personally choose to expose themselves to its risks, it is not the State’s job to facilitate access to what is harmful.

What the state should do is to craft laws that prevent people from harming themselves or more positively phrased, help them develop themselves and society.  We submit that legislators have to dump the contentious and flawed Reproductive Health bills and to pass more bills strengthening the Filipino family, protecting its citizens against the risks of contraception, defending the scientific fact that conception begins at fertilization, providing essential medicines for the main causes of death, making quality education more accessible to Filipinos, and providing more jobs.

For the love of our country,

If you are a graduate or student of any of the campuses of the UP System and would like to join us in forwarding the good cause of our nation as what we have always learned from our alma mater, kindly provide the following data and send them to <[email protected]>.

For teachers and alumni:

Full Name

Course/s Finished in UP (Year of Graduation), College, UP Campus
For those with degrees from other schools, please indicate degree, school, address of school

Juan de la Cruz
BS Political Science (1975), CSSP, UP Diliman
PhD in Rocket Science (1990), MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts

For students:

Full Name
Course and Year (in Roman Numeral, e.g., BS Biology IV), College, UP Campus

Juana de la Torre
BA Psychology III, CAS, UPLB

Please don’t forget to send your information at <[email protected]> and ask all your other friends from UP to do the same. Should you need more data about the position paper, please send a request through the same email address.

Feel free to pass this position paper to all your friends who are students or alumni of any of the UP campuses.”

As a UP alumnus, I cannot let this pass, so I sent this mail:

The so-called “position” of UP regarding the RH Bill debate is a blatant misrepresentation of the UP community’s stand on this issue. This uncalled for declaration of UP’s “stand” is unjustified to say the least and is even shamefully dishonest. For one, I am a UP alumnus, but I am a staunch supporter of the important legislation, and I know many UP alumni and teachers who support the bill. For us, this declaration of UP’s “stand” on the RH Bill is a disgusting misuse of the name of the University of the Philippines by those who are desperate to give credence to their cause.

Not even the UP President, the Board of Regents or any of its campus Chancellors can declare an “official position” for UP on this sensitive issue. If UP is an institution that values intellectual freedom, it must know that its faculty, students and alumni will take different and often conflicting sides on any issue. Hence, the University of the Philippine must never take an “official” stand on the RH Bill.

And I believe that it has not taken an official side, and that this petition containing UP’s so-called “position” on the RH Bill is a shameless misuse of the name of the University of the Philippines.

I personally find this misrepresentation insulting, for it excludes me from the UP community. I demand that the name of UP in the petition be removed and that members of the UP community who oppose the RH Bill must be clear that their stand is not the stand of “members, students and alumni of the University of the Philippines” but only the stand of some organizations within the UP community.

Pecier Carpena Decierdo

UP Diliman Alumnus, Student number 2005-55311

Graduate of BS Physics, Batch 2010

I really hope that all UP students, alumni and faculty who read this will do the same. Let us fight against this disgusting dishonesty and desperation of the opponents of the RH Bill!
DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.