Church and state clash over sex and condoms in the Philippines

A 13-year battle between church and state in the Philippines, one of the world's most devoutly Catholic nations, has come to a head over government plans to provide free condoms and sex education. Catholic bishops have threatened to excommunicate President Benigno Aquino over a reproductive health bill introduced into the Congress yesterday.

As well as the powerful church, Mr Aquino is opposed by one of the most popular figures in the Philippines, the world champion boxer turned congressman Manny Pacquiao.

Mr Pacquiao said this week that he would never have been born, or become a champion, if his parents had used contraception. "God said go forth and multiply," he declared. "He did not say just go and have one or two children."

The aim of the bill is to control population growth, reduce HIV infection rates and eradicate the need for women to seek backstreet abortions. Mr Aquino, who is determined to see it become law, is prepared to be banished from the church, if necessary. "I have been taught in school, which was a Catholic institution, that the final arbiter really is our conscience," he said yesterday.

But the church, which has enormous clout in the Philippines, is not about to give way. Since 1998, it has quashed several previous versions of the bill. "Sex is not a game that should be taught to children, along with the use of condoms, supposedly to avoid disease," the Archbishop of Manila, Gaudencio Rosales, told an anti-contraception rally in the capital two months ago.

About 80 per cent of Filipinos are Catholic, a legacy of the country's Spanish colonial past, and they look to the church for political as well as moral guidance. Two former presidents, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada, were forced out of office by "people power" revolutions backed by religious leaders. Mr Aquino's late mother, Cory, another former president, was bolstered by the church's support.

Advocates of improved education and condom provision point to the rapidly growing population, which has doubled to 94 million in the past 30 years, and to the fact many people live in grinding poverty. While the HIV infection rate is low compared with other Asian countries, public health officials say tougher measures to prevent the spread of the disease are needed.

With abortion still illegal in the Philippines, 560,000 women visit backstreet clinics annually, according to a report by the New York-based Centre for Reproductive Rights. Of them, an estimated 90,000 experience complications, and 1,000 women die every year.

The church advocates abstinence and the bishops have called for condoms to carry warning labels, saying they create a false sense of security and encourage promiscuity.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - Tech Startup - Direct Your Own Career Path

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Sales Advisor - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telephone Sales Advisor is re...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker - OTE £20,000

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An office based Appointment Mak...

Recruitment Genius: Healthcare Assistant

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of care services is looking for...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent