Duterte proposes 3-child policy, Pernia affirms family planning

Posted on May 24, 2016

INCOMING president Rodrigo R. Duterte will aggressively implement the country’s family planning law to push his economic growth agenda, one of his aides said on Monday, in a move that could add to simmering tensions with the Catholic Church.

Congress passed a law in December 2012, despite opposition from Church leaders, allowing public health centers to hand out contraceptives such as condoms and pills, and teach sex education in schools.

Mr. Duterte is pushing for “rapid and sustained implementation” of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, said Ernesto dM. Pernia, whom Mr. Duterte has named as his economic planning secretary.

In his impromptu press briefing at a Davao City establishment in the wee hours of Sunday, May 21, Mr. Duterte touched on a wide range of issues and also attacked the Catholic Church, leveling at what he called the “most hypocritical institution” its “sins...from the beginning of time,” including “incest,” womanizing, and “graft and corruption.”

“You sons of bitches, you have no shame yet how you speak,” he said in Filipino.

Political analysts said they were not surprised at Mr. Duterte’s statements because some bishops spoke out against him during the election campaign.

“Like most liberal, secular politicians, Duterte is a deist,” said Joselito Zulueta of the University of Santo Tomas. “This in itself is a self-serving position conceived out of human conceit. He will do as he pleases except when he’s stopped by public criticism.”

He said Mr. Duterte’s government was expected to clash more with the Catholic Church not only on population issues, but on the restoration of the death penalty, the legalization of divorce, which was available to the citizenry before the Pacific War, and the planned distribution of contraceptives.

Mr. Duterte also proposed a three-child policy in response to the population issue. “I only want three children for every family,” he said. “I’m a Christian, but I’m a realist so we have to do something with our overpopulation. I will defy the opinion or the belief of the Church.”

About 80% of the Philippines’ 100 million population are Catholics, the largest concentration of any Asian country, who oppose abortion and contraception.

The past six years saw the Philippine economy’s average annual economic growth topping 6%, but critics say the improvement has not translated into jobs or better livelihoods for millions of poor.

About a quarter of the country’s population of around 101 million remains poor, official data show.

“If you enable families to limit and phase their children to what they can afford and what they can provide for, then that’s going to have an effect on poverty and inequality,” Mr. Pernia said in an interview with ANC.

Mr. Pernia, a former university lecturer and economist at the Asian Development Bank, will join Mr. Duterte’s Cabinet as chief of the National Economic and Development Authority. He will form part of an economic team headed by Carlos G. Dominguez, who has been named finance secretary.

Mr. Pernia said Mr. Duterte’s economic program focuses on tackling the urgent need to cut red tape in government and addressing traffic problems in the capital to encourage investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, which will create more jobs. -- main reports by Reuters