Posted on 21 February 2011.
Last February 16, 2011, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed the RH Bill. Now that it has passed through yet another hoop, its desperate opponents have intensified their propaganda against it.
The latest salvo from the anti-RH faction is now a “position paper” from some UP students, faculty, and alumni. You can read it here in full. Let’s break it down, shall we?
First off, they start their letter saying that they have a secular educational background, as if that meant anything. Having a secular college education does not mean you are free from the influence of Catholic dogma. One has to wonder why they even needed to emphasize their secular education, given that no one really cares as long as their arguments are sound. In their obvious effort to shy away from Catholicism, all they did was make me think was that this position paper was forwarded by Catholics in defense of their church’s position.
Now to the meat of the matter:
1. They claim that “population is not an obstacle to development“. Sure, if your country is well developed, well governed, with well educated citizens, and with reasonably high standards of living, then yes, population growth is not an obstacle to development. In fact, it can even boost development.
But if your country is already burdened with the 12th largest population in the world, with high rates of poverty, low standards of living, poorly equipped teachers and schools, high student to teach ratio, rampant corruption, and high unemployment rates, does adding almost 2 million more mouths to feed every year really help our country’s development?
Such simplistic black and white thinking reveals the narrow mindsets of this paper’s authors. The blatant appeal to authority (referencing Nobel Laureate Simon Kuznets) is also incredibly cheap and does nothing to advance their argument. They claim that Kuznets said “there is insignificant empirical association between population growth rates and output per capita. 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.” Are they forgetting that technology does not “grow” in our country, and that we need to import it? Are they forgetting that the vast majority of our burgeoning population have no idea how to “employ these new technologies efficiently and widely”?
They add that “he (Kuznets) argued instead that a more rapid population growth, if properly managed, will promote economic development“. Did you notice the bolded part? I wonder what part of “keeping people ignorant of their choices when it comes to family planning” can equate to “properly managed population growth”?
If anything, Kuznets argued that “underdeveloped countries of today possess characteristics different from those that industrialized countries faced before they developed.” I would like to ask the authors with Economics degrees to please provide proof that the work of Kuznets that they cited was referring to the economies of countries with similar social, political, and economic standings as the Philippines.
2. They claim that “the government has to channel limited funds to job creation and education“. Well, you can use this argument to just about ANY OTHER PROPOSED BILL that we have right now. Why not ask them to just stop introducing any other bills and just concentrate on “job creation and education”? Oh, wait, because there’s more to running a country than just “job creation and education”.
Are they truly concerned about the “limited funds”? Then why do we not see any position papers from them demanding the revocation of the tax exempt status of churches? That will sure put a LOT of money into government coffers. Why do we see no position papers on the removal of pork barrel funds, or the cleaning up of the ultracorrupt BIR? Besides, what is 750 million pesos out of the almost 1.7 TRILLION budget for 2011? Does putting 0.03% of the entire budget really take that much away from other projects?
3. They claim that “fertility rates in the Philippines are progressively decreasing“. Yes, that is true. But does that really mean anything when our country is already the 12th most populous country in the world? In fact, a Total Fertility Rate of 3.1 is still well above the world average of 2.5. That’s like a basketball player boasting that he has continued to improve his scoring every year and is now up to 10 points per game, when the average player scores 14 points a game. It’s not really something to brag about.
A better metric would be the population growth rate, which is around 1.72% per year, and places us at #74 out of 230 countries listed by the UN. Again, it is well above the world average of 1.17%. It doesn’t take a math genius to figure what a very high population coupled with high growth rate will result in.
And then they pull the “Japan is experiencing an aging population” card. Guys, can we talk about that when we get to be the economic powerhouse that Japan is? Do you really, REALLY believe that our country is comparable to Japan in any way? They claim that our “best asset” is our people. Really? Our best asset is a population of under/uneducated, unskilled laborers that we export to other countries en masse? Are the authors happy to keep the status quo?
4. They claim that “the government has to channel limited resources to address the leading causes of death“, which is basically the same as argument #2. Besides, what makes them think that we cannot do both at the same time?
5. They say that “condoms are not a wise investment“. They give two reasons for this:
One, that because countries like Thailand has high condom usage and yet has high HIV infection rates, and the we have one of the lowest, even without much condom use. They site that the cause is due to Risk Compensation. In a nutshell:
Risk compensation is an effect whereby individual people may tend to adjust their behaviour in response to perceived changes in risk. It is seen as self-evident that individuals will tend to behave in a more cautious manner if their perception of risk or danger increases. Another way of stating this is that individuals will behave less cautiously in situations where they feel “safer” or more protected.
Now this is a valid theory. But if they will use this as a reason to say that condoms are not a wise investment, then they have to argue for the removal of ABS, seat belts, and SRS airbags in vehicles. They also have to argue for the repeal of laws requiring motorcycle and bicycle riders to wear helmets and protective gear. They also need to argue for the removal of speed limits, traffic lights, and speed bumps. They also have to argue for a ban on the sale of child safety equipment. Because all these things have been proven to raise our perception of safety, and thus are not “wise investments”.
Their second reason is that condoms cannot prevent all STDs. Well, that’s like saying that two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash should not shoot free throws because he does not make all of them (he hits over 90% of them). Nobody is saying that condoms can prevent all STDs. Let me ask the the authors who are MDs: Can you name me one medical intervention that is 100% effective, 100% safe, and works 100% of the time? You can’t, can you? Using this argument, ALL medical interventions should be scrapped.
6. They say that “Oral Contraceptive Pills (OCP) have been classified by the IARC as a Group 1 carcinogen“. This is partly true. What they fail to mention is that the study this was based on was performed mostly on menopausal women, and focused mainly on PremPro, a hormone replacement therapy using a combination of estrogen and progestin. It did not cover ALL types of OCPs.
Also, they fail to mention that while OCPs can increase the risks of certain cancers, it has also been shown to REDUCE the risk of other types of cancers. In fact, the American Cancer Society has this to add in the list of carcinogens they have on their website:
Estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives (combined) (Note: There is also convincing evidence in humans that these agents confer a protective effect against cancer in the endometrium and ovary)
Besides, even assuming that all OCPs had this risk, I’m sure the authors who are MDs know that pretty much all of medicine is “risk vs benefit”. Just about every drug and medical procedure entails risk. If you oppose the RH Bill simply because of the OCPs possibly causing harm, then why are you not fighting for the ban of chemotherapy? How about radiation therapy? Or any major surgery? They all expose the public to a significant risk of harm.
Do you know what else is on IARC list of Group 1 carcinogens? X-Rays. DO we see any position papers asking for the ban of their use? And here’s another one on their list: Solar Radiation. Yes, SUNLIGHT. So, where’s the position paper asking for the ban on sun exposure?
And then they end by stating that “It is the State’s duty to order society by promoting the well-being of it’s citizens. Thus it is a disservice to legislate what constitutes harm to its people“. Again, the overly simplistic view that “anything that can possibly cause harm must not be encouraged”. If we follow their reasoning, then the State should not encourage sports. Lots of people suffer from sports injuries, many of them highly debilitating, and some even cause irreversible damage. By this argument, we should scrap all sports programs! We should also ban automobiles, mining and construction work, the police and the military, and the practice of medicine because they all entail risk and possible harm to citizens.
In a nutshell, the core of their argument is that “The RH Bill will not solve all our problems, therefore it must be scrapped.” The things is, nobody is saying that passing the RH Bill will solve all our problems. It is merely a small step in the right direction.
In the end, this position paper offers nothing new from the anti-RH Bill faction. It’s the same arguments they have made time and again, only under the guise of being “secular” .
Furthermore, I must question, if only in my mind, the academic integrity of the authors of this position paper. If they are willing to twist logic and bend truths for personal agendas, how trustworthy can they be in the realm of academia?