Duterte’s RH order marks decline of Church influence

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RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

PRESIDENT Duterte’s Executive Order No. 12 launching a determined, government-backed birth-control program that implements most of the provisions of the historic Reproductive Health Law of 2012 is another major indication that at last, the Catholic Church’s role in the realm reserved for the State is irreversibly in decline.

Mainly because of the Church’s opposition, and a succession of Philippine Presidents’-especially Corazon Aquino’s-servility to it for theological or political reasons, we have been among the last nations on the planet to admit the incontrovertible reality that state-sponsored birth control, especially for the poor, is an absolute necessity in this day and age, and to make available to the poor contraceptives as their right.

As a result, in Southeast Asia, we have the highest population growth rate, which since 1987 averaged annually at 2.2 percent, way above Thailand’s and Indonesia’s 0.9 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. The East Asian average in fact is just 1 percent, or more than half ours. Thailand had a 3 percent growth rate in the 1970s; now it is less than 1 percent

Without Catholic dogma indeed, it’s not too difficult to see that the poor, unlike the rich, can’t afford condoms of P20 each, used presumably only once and at the very least three times a week. And for the poor, sex would probably be their only means for pleasure.


A less-than-confident President, or one believing that the Church is a crucial political ally, would have just left the RH Law unimplemented, and allowed the widespread, but certainly false notion, that the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional. (It didn’t for most of it, but ruled unconstitutional eight of its provisions, which however could be skirted without weakening the birth-control program.)

EDSA I and its shrine restored Catholic Church influence since 1986. It’s vastly diminished now.

I am sure the Duterte government would be able to use its moral suasion, and legal resources, to convince the Supreme Court’s Second Division, headed by Senior Justice Antonio Carpio to lift its temporary restraining order on the health department’s distribution and sale of sub-dermal implants, a contraceptive that can prevent pregnancies for up to 3 years. This would jump-start the country’s much-delayed birth-control program, as the health department had already bought 400,000 of these at P500, or one-tenth of its P5,000 market price, with the financial assistance of Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ philanthropic foundation.

Reactionary institution
While of course-as all religions from antiquity have done-the Catholic Church has provided social stability, and even as some arguably claim, some basic morality, it has been inarguably a reactionary institution that has been a bulwark of the Philippine oligarchy, in much the same way that it has been in countries with very exploitative class structures as those in Latin America.

This idea has even been etched as early as in our national hero Jose Rizal’s brilliant novels that provided the vision for the nation, the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. The villain in these novels is not some Spanish colonial official nor his local proxy elite, the gobernadorcillo. Rather, it was a Franciscan friar Padre Damaso-Rizal’s unmistakable embodiment of the Catholic Church-who brought down misery on the novel’s hero, Crisostomo Ibarra, and his father, Don Rafael. It is not insignificant indeed that the Noli’s embodiment of the Filipino elite, the rich landowner but pro-poor Ibarra, was persecuted by the Franciscan.

Despite Noli and Fili, and no matter how much we revered these brilliant novels that became the foundations of our nationhood, the Padre Damasos have merely evolved throughout the post-colonial period as the communities’ parish priests and the Church’s cardinals and bishops. They provided comfort to the poor-that there’d be a better place for them in the afterlife, so they just have to be patient and not rebel against the ruling class. If your lives are in misery, you just have to demonstrate more fervor for the Lord, such as joining and risking life and limb at the annual Black Nazarene procession.

On the other hand, the Church provided insurance to the ruling class, that their contributions to the Church would buy them their visas to heaven. Even in this vale of tears, a wedding at the Manila Cathedral, yours for a P100,000 donation, would ensure your children’s happy marriage, or so the implicit Church message has been.

The decline in Church influence had started in the 1970s, with the strongman Marcos largely ignoring it for most of his regime, and then became angry with it because of the migration of young Latin American “liberation theology” priests to the Communist Party.

The Church was reinvigorated by the People Power revolt and the rise of the Yellow Cult led by Corazon Aquino for several reasons.

The politically astute Jaime Cardinal Sin had sensed the shift in political winds after Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in 1983, after supporting Marcos since 1973 when he replaced the pro-Marcos Rufino Cardinal Santos. The declassified US documents (see my column of December 5 – “Ninoy Aquino: Hero or miscalculating ‘throne’ gamer?”) showed that it was Sin who had encouraged Aquino to return home to trigger a political crisis by giving him false information that Marcos’ kidney transplant early that year was a failure and that he was dying soon.

Human shields
And it was Sin of course who called on urban Filipinos to go to Camp Crame to function as human shields in case Marcos decided to militarily move against Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos and their cabal who were caught planning a coup against the strongman.

Sin, the Church, Cory and probably her American PR advisers cleverly injected religious imagery into the revolt that exploited Filipinos’ religious sentiments in order to fire up the people power movement: Cory holed up in the Carmelite Monastery in Cebu praying as the revolution started; nuns praying the rosary and even carrying Virgin Mary statuettes to counter the tanks sent my Marcos (as ancient peoples carried their war gods to battle); and spreading the ridiculous notion that it was Mama Mary who protected the people-power revolutionaries.

And as soon as they got enough donors donating, the Church and the Yellow Cult built in 1989 on a chapel fronting Chinese-Filipino tycoon John Gokongwei’s mall, what it calculated would be a monument to assure their control of the State for generations: the EDSA Shrine, whose official name is “The Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace, Our Lady of EDSA.” Our Lady of EDSA?

That title of course sounds like the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” and “Our Lady of Fatima”, referring to places where the Church officially confirmed that the Virgin Mary beamed down to earth to meet in person a Mexican Indian and poor teenagers of a shepherd family, respectively.

Miracle
While I’m not aware that the Vatican has officially confirmed that the mass demonstration at Camp Crame that defended military mutineers was a miracle, and that the Virgin materialized in that avenue, that Our-Lady-of-EDSA thing is a very clever propaganda trick many Filipinos, even highly educated ones, fervently believed in: that the fall of Marcos and the rise of the Yellow Cult was sanctioned by God himself through his mother, just as rulers of ancient times were appointed by the Deity. And of course, it is the Catholic Church that God works through. Its power and influence from the Spanish period, diminished by Marcos, was restored by EDSA I.

Despite being of another Christian sect, President Fidel Ramos, totally beholden to Cory for his presidential election and desperate to shed off his past as Marcos’ henchman, maintained the momentum of the Church’s resurrection as a political force. President Estrada wasn’t as servile to it, not surprising because of his virtual polygamy that violated Church dogma. President Arroyo was a devout Catholic who heard mass daily, although she was bold enough to move away from it, when it betrayed her during the so-called Hyatt 5 event in 2005 that tried to overthrow her. She angrily told Cory who had told her that Cardinal Sin also wanted her to step down: “Even if the Pope tells me to, I will not abandon my post Filipinos elected me to.”

Cory died in 2009, less than a year to the 2010 elections, which her son exploited with Filipinos’ penchant for sympathy votes. There was a massive disinformation against Arroyo as corrupt, most probably with the support of the US that didn’t like her closeness to China. Candidate Manuel Villar was portrayed as a senator who used his position to advance his property conglomerate’s interests. As a result, Cory’s mediocre son “Noynoy” got to be President , and with him the Yellow Cult attempted to restore the Church’s influence. However, surprisingly, Noynoy defied the Church and backed the Reproductive Health Law’s passage in 2012.

Duterte’s cursing of the Pope, even if only in jest, revealed that he wasn’t at the very least a practicing Catholic, and was even disdainful of the Church, its dogmas and its political meddling. Subsequent events have certainly proved this, with the Church campaigning-unsuccessfully-before and after the elections against Duterte for his disregard for human life in his war against illegal drugs.

Despite everything, there is progress in this unlucky country of ours. The role and influence of the Catholic Church over this nation has diminished. We are moving towards the modern age.

E-mail: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
FB: Bobi Tiglao and Rigoberto Tiglao

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45 Comments

  1. Its time for the catholic church knows the separation of church and state.do your job as teaching and guiding your people on responsible parenthood.its time for us to realize that children should be treated with respect.they deserve a decent living.how can you dothis if you can not even feed yourself?
    Our president is doing the right thing and hopefully our sipreme court wi do slso.so we can start the program of dessination information in various places especially in remote provinces where even electricity can not be reach let the barangay move with the guidance of the departhment of health.

  2. This author was once a sspokesperson of and continues to be an apologist for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. That’s why he failed to mention that Arroyo cuddled with the Catholic Church to oust the democratically-elected president Joseph Estrada. Moreover, she was vehemently against the RH bill/RH law. In addition, she abolished the death penalty law to appease the Catholic Church so that they wouldn’t join the cry for her resignation during the Hello Garci scandal.

  3. patrick aherne on

    I’m missing something here. Are we saying that birth control is a good thing? Because if we are, we will go the same road as Europe and the United States. No people in 3 generations.

  4. Since the miracle of our Lady of EDSA, Philippines become the poorest nation in Asia (the only catholic nation). What a miracle indeed.

  5. Great and daring article (especially if you are writing for the extremely Catholic Filipino populace). I am so glad I could read stuff like this nowadays. Christianity is on the down slide in other parts of the globe and in order for it to perpetuate perpetually, the catholic church is counting on poor catholic nations to keep reproducing followers, and how to do that: demonize contraceptives and promote poverty.

    • Todd L. Cabrera on

      Right? In the past people never wrote honestly like this. Thank goodness Filipinos are more enlightened now.

  6. Thank you for your article Mr. Tiglao,

    You hit the nail on the head, so to speak, I hope more Filipinos will be enlighten against the bad influence of the Fr. Damasos of our country.

    A Filipino from Belgium…

  7. The fight is not yet over! Duterte’s heir apparent, Senator Pacquiao, is a staunch defender of the Catholic Church. When he becomes President, he may reverse all the anti-Church laws enacted by the Aquino and Duterte administration. Senator Pacquiao was a poor man who rose through prayers and ability combined. That is why he is so grateful to the Catholic Church for what he is now. Let the Church know her friends and her enemies. The anti-Church group were really the Aquinos whom the Church backed into power.

  8. There are a lot of bitterness in your heart Mr. Tiglao. The poverty in the Philippine should not be looked at from our population growth. Indonesia has the bigger population in comparison to ours, but Indonesia is richer than us. Neither the Church and her priests, bishops and cardinal and people of good faith nor the faith itself and devotion is the cause of poverty. How many billions of pesos lost every year in taxes? How many billions of pesos lost in unnecessary spending of our government officials every year? How many billions of pesos the Philippine government lost in all government projects from hi-ways and school buildings every year? How many billions of pesos lost in all government agencies every year in their business dealing with private entities? I think Mr. Tiglao you can still add more of Philippine’s billions of losses. And I think the poverty of our poor people should be made against them why they are poor, neither they should be a victim of the Reproductive Health Law of the Philippine government. We poor people have been a victim for many years by the way our government resources are managed corruptedly. I tell you and I know you know that corruption is the root cause of the poverty of our people. I remember when the province of Albay was hit by the strongest typhoon last 2006, I saw a newly constructed school building without a wall anymore, and when I looked at it closely I found out that the wall was constructed almost without any steel, the steels were only one or two steel nearby the pillar in both sides of a big school building. If the natural calamity that time occurred during school days were the earthquake, many of our Children would be killed by that wall. Where did the money go for a good school building of our children? Who are the victims of corruption? Mr. Tiglao I would rather advise you to join us in our stand against corruption than for you to be writing in your comfort zone many baseless stories.

    • I missed putting the word “not” in one of the sentences above, It should be: I think the poverty of our people should not be used against them why they are poor, neither they should be a victim of the reproductive Health Law of the Philippine government.

  9. Mr.Tiglao you have used this article to criticize the Roman Catholic church despite all the good it has done. Granted there will always be black sheep in any organisation, be it within the Church or within a group of politicians such as the House of Representatives or the Senate. Point out the mistakes if you will, but also highlight the good things that have been done. Otherwise your article should be disregarded as a biased, hate filled opinion piece. And do not forget that there are many other things that have caused the difficult situation in the Philippines. This includes corruption, the weakness of the government institutions and the power of the oligarchy. When the President moves to address these issues, then only will you know that change is truly coming and the nation is moving forward.

    • What good have you think they did is just a farce to hide their true intent. especially the priest in this country to recently seduced and impregnated a young girl. the catholics brainwashed the people to do its bidding, it has a very very dark and shady past, present and future, while it regards human lives as sacred, they prefer to keep alive the criminals – who keep their coffers full. if prayer is as powerful as its preaches, then why don’t they pray to that the people would stop doing evil deeds. yeah! i know, there is satan. but isn’t your god as powerful as satan?

    • Hate? There’s nothing in the article that calls upon people to hate. The article isn’t about a review of the catholic church as a whole, but about it’s role in Philippine politics, it’s rise during the Aquino’s era and it’s subsequent decline in influence in today’s PRRD era. Just because it did a lot of good doesn’t mean it is free from sin. The author didn’t even touch on those “sin” of the catholic church since the article isn’t about that. It’s about the catholic church’s influence on our politics throughout the years. Hate? If there is any hate here, it’s coming from you.

  10. You are the man, sir Tiglao! Im also curious about the invention of the sinful cardinal concerning the Lady of EDSA. Is the Vatican Church authorized it? Was there really a miraculous thing about it? Isa din ako sa madaming nauto ng mga Yellows before.

  11. Those are all your personal, not academically researched, opinion, Mr. Tiglao. You apparently focus your darts on the Catholic Church, whose basic mission is upholding the poor in our midst, while obviously you’ve left out those groups, like INC, which prey on the ignorance of the poorer sector of society. Silently and patiently, parish priests and missionaries of the Catholic Church work day-in day-out amidst squatter communities and in hinterland to educate and support morally the marginalized Pilipinos whom the govt has practically forgotten OUTSIDE OF ELECTION times. Please review your looking glass, Sir.

    • There are so many charitable organizations that do good. Sana the church doesn’t use the good works they do as a shield. Eh mabuti pa nga other organizations walang religious indoctrination na involved.

  12. “Despite everything, there is progress in this unlucky country of ours. The role and influence of the Catholic Church over this nation has diminished. We are moving towards the modern age.”

    Yes indeed Mr. Tiglao. If only Filipinos will make up their minds and consider these PADRE DAMASO’S irrelevant, we will certainly progress as a NATION.

  13. “…with the financial assistance of Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ philanthropic foundation.” Bill Gates wants poor people to stop reproducing. It feels like Dan Brown’s “Inferno.” In all seriousness though, I am very happy that the RH bill has finally been implemented. One of the most painful things about living in the Philippines was watching children, dirty and almost naked, running in the streets begging for food and money.

    • CORRECT, A NUISANCE TO THE EYE … IT WILL TAKE DECADES BEFORE WE RESTORE THE DISCIPLINE OF THE 1960’s FOR THESE SORES TO BE ERADICATED. HOW MANY MORE LIKE MINDED PRESIDENTS EVEN HALF OF DU30s PERSONALITY WILL ARISE FOR THE GOOD OF THIS COUNTRY

  14. The Church should be taxed. It is not a religious organization anymore, but a political organization.

    • I’m with you! Count me in. Tax the church because it’s now a political organization.

      The people who would write to New Constitution should not be influenced by the Church. Tax the Church heavily so its mouth should shut up. The more it talks the higher it should be taxed.

      The CBCP has become too old and too corrupt. Compare CBCP as the Pharisees of the old. Hypocrites!

    • T Infante is not even a tax man or a CPA to understand Philippine tax laws. His word is nothing.

  15. What is bared in many centuries attacked to the Catholic Church is the test of the church’s divine existence and proved that neither the ingenuity of the church leadership nor the power of any government leaders can cause the demise of the Catholic Church. Christ’s true doctrines remained while untrue cannot endure. Wherever Christ is there, there is the Catholic Church because Christ is His Head and the faithful in His mystical Body and is inseparable.

    • There are many Christian sect in the name of Jesus Christ…. To name a few is the equally powerful Greek Orthodox Church in Europe and some minor Protestant Churches especially in the United States and some scattered around the world. Christian Doctrine is not at all dominated by the Roman Catholic Church as we made to believe it, just maybe only in the Philippines and some Latin American countries. If we Christians are grouped into one, then this faith is powerful for all mankind to see, but in reality self interest comes first and faith only comes along to serve the first.

    • “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”….

    • I dont see Christ’ character in. Christ once said ““Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”

    • what? how come your church is called catholic when the church built by the Lord Jesus is called CHURCH OF GOD!!!

  16. Granted that the church should not meddle with political affairs to control their interests, and truly I agree with the point of view, what I find disturbing is how Mama Mary seems to be debased here. My faith in Mother Mary is strong and to actually say she wasnt there protecting the people against violence shouldn’t be the issue being pointed out here. Only that they are trying to use the faith of the people as a means to an awful end.

  17. . . . “The role and influence of the Catholic Church over this nation has diminished.” Very very late we are. As you very well know, Sir RDT, Martin Luther, initiated the break-away, contesting Vatican Bulls (where Bull Shit originated, you know that, too). Late by about five centuries. Rizal, like Luther, questioned “indulgence.” Indulgence, paid as it is, does not effect salvation. Salvation is free….so it is written…. by grace through faith. Like the Christ who got crucified by Jewish priests through the Roman government, Rizal was martyred by the Church through the Spanish government.
    But Noli and Fili are taught in schools evading somehow this much-contested Catholic dogma of “indulgence.” Camilo Osias’ translations must be recommended to DECs and CHED. And allow the next generations of Pinoys shape their moral values accordingly i.e., end their religion’s blindfold.

  18. …and the Catholic Church itself is crumbling since after the time Vatican II was promulgated. A painful fact majority of the entire Church’s clergy continue to hide from the faithfuls.

  19. After the Edsa People’s “Revolution” also started the politicalization of the Catholic Church. From there onwards, many Priests became partisans in favor of the yellow party which defines the Cojuangco-Aquino family and their cohorts. Based in history, the Church will be silent of the abuses of their favored party members and unforgiving towards those of oppose the yellow party. Since then there was no such as separation of the state and the church.

  20. Our Church must re-invent itself into useful social and humanitarian institution away from Father Damaso style. Instead of helping the poor, our church make them poorer by denying them access to affordable reproductive health care warning them of hell if they disobey, not realizing that for the poor, living in thee Philippines is already living inn thee gates of hell.

  21. Rizalito David on

    I thought you were brilliant but I was wrong. Don’t let your hatred over things better than you cloud your shitty opinion about so many things. That EO is trash! It does not mean anything with respect to the RH law if you even studied the issue well. The pharma people are desperate and so are those in their pockets. It’s all about money. Such monumental stupidity. And as usual Digong is I’ll advised.

  22. Let the fake 1986 EDSA guide and give the people the strength not to give in to the church’s wishes that are only for their own selfish purpose and goals. People have surely awaken, first sign was clearly evident by overwhelmingly voting Duterte to power; secondly, by following him, with millions of drug addicts surrendering, meaning these people are scared or perhaps ready to change. Last but not least, all the attempts to oust Duterte have failed by exposing the yellows’ moves by the intelligent and savvy die-hard supporters who are all watching so closely those traitors who need wealth and power to survive their sorry lives. Filipinos see what Duterte can offer to the country and to the people who have suffered so much under the hands of the oligarchs and their abusive followers. Change is good. Moving forward with time.

  23. perhaps. and only because of a president with the political will to do what is necessary. don’t count them out, though. they are wily and will surely find ways to get back on top. after all, they have survived and thrived for hundreds of years. you must already know that they are actively mobilizing rallies / protests to get the president out of office. they won’t take this sitting down.

  24. If Marcos’ supporters were timid and just watched the oligarchs and their supporters mount a fake 1986 EDSA miracle that toppled Marcos, Duterte’s supporters should not commit the same mistake and must not just watch and sit idly while Duterte’s detractors try to oust him by faking another EDSA miracle. Let’s not be fooled again and let’s fight the oligarchs and the yellow cult.

  25. After a respectful pause, maybe we can now move on to establish a framework for divorce, even if we will be the last country in the world to do so.

    • The politicians don’t want a divorce law due to the ex revealing all the hidden properties and bank accounts that would be divided in the event of a divorce.