Tuesday, February 16, 2010

7 candidates slam DOH over free condoms

photo source AP

Presidential candidates for the May 10, 2010 national eletions, from left, Sen. Benigno Aquino III, Sen. Richard Gordon, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Nicanor Perlas, John Carlos De Los Reyes, Gilbert Teodoro, Eddie Villanueva, show their stand for a clean elections following a forum with foreign correspondents based in Manila, Philippines Monday Feb. 15, 2010. Nine candidates are running for a fixed 6-year term for the highest position of the land in the first-ever automated elections in May.

By Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:36:00 02/16/2010

Filed Under: Inquirer Politics, Eleksyon 2010, Family planning, Religion & Belief, Health

MANILA, Philippines—No more free condoms—not on Valentine’s Day or on any conceivable occasion.

The Department of Health (DoH) had better not do a repeat of last weekend’s caper of distributing free condoms at the Dangwa market to people buying flowers for their Valentine.

Seven presidential candidates were asked Monday at a forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) whether they would fund the distribution of free condoms or other forms of artificial birth control.

All seven said they were not keen on funding the freebies, whether to prevent pregnancy or the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Sen. Richard Gordon of the Bagumbayan Party said giving away condoms was useless unless its purpose was properly explained.

“[Because of] poor education, Filipinos cannot even discern whether they need a condom or not,” he said.

Information campaign

Gordon and independent candidate Sen. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal agreed that instead of giving away free condoms, the DoH should have conducted an information campaign on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

“It should have been information-driven,” Madrigal said, adding that HIV, which causes AIDS, is transmitted by blood transfusion or sexual contact with an infected person.

Sen. Benigno Aquino III of the Liberal Party pointed out that Congress, not Malacañang, had power over the government purse, meaning, the President had no authority over funds for the DoH or for condoms.

“I support responsible parenthood,” he said.

However, Aquino raised fears that the Valentine weekend gimmick could be used to justify “the renewal of the same budget” in the future.

In what context?

Environmentalist Nicanor Perlas said he was not against the use of condoms per se but he was concerned why the government was distributing them.

“It depends on the context. It happened on Feb. 14. So, under what context was it done?” he said.

Administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro said the use of family planning methods, whether natural or artificial, remained “the moral choice of the person” concerned.
“The government must be willing to support [the person’s decision] in the context of a program. So I am not excluding any particular method,” he clarified.

Personal choice

However, Teodoro said the issue of HIV/AIDS could involve the use of condoms as a preventive measure.

“HIV is a real and present threat. In the case of a private person consulting with physicians of the government or nongovernmental organizations, there is a need to respect the physician-patient privilege. In terms of disease prevention, because of fear or stigma, privacy should remain supreme,” he said.

Bro. Eddie Villanueva of the Bangon Pilipinas Movement said his group maintained its opposition to the use of “all forms of abortion because it is murder per se.”

The Catholic Church allows only natural family planning and considers the use of artificial contraceptives as abortive.

Villanueva said he would leave it to the parents to guide their children on making such personal choices.

Villanueva added that the government’s budget for free condoms should have been allocated to programs that would “propel the economic engine.”

Thai experience

Olongapo Councilor JC de los Reyes cited Thailand’s experience where its massive campaign for condom use backfired, resulting in higher incidence of AIDS.

“The government must push for moral policies. The condom campaign is a waste of money. It is uneconomical and immoral,” he said.

Presidential candidates Manny Villar and Joseph Estrada were no-shows at the presidential forum.

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