• RH case: a pitiful country stuck in ancient debates

    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    We are, truly, a Sad Sack country.

    While the discussions elsewhere are about planned trips to other planets and trial runs for luxury-laden, private spaceships, we are still in the RH debate , we retrogress, still arguing that the RH law is illegal, immoral and anti-life.

    While the resources of other societies—including venture capital—are being poured massively into ICT—related innovation and bankrolling alternatives to fossil fuel, and some crazy and wild propositions that may finally bear fruition, we still give the megaphones to Neanderthals who are still for reckless procreation .

    The Winklevoss twins have found their second act after being dumped by Mark Zuckerberg and are now creating a trading mechanism for Bitcoins .

    The books they write are often titled “The New, New Thing”—about a Silicon Valley dream to build a workstation-controlled sailboat with a 197-foot mast. Or, “The Next Convergence,“ if not amazing sci-fi literature that may happen in the future. Nerds in their jeans and turtlenecks and hoodies get rock star treatment at TED conferences.

    What are we, in contrast? Close to 100 million people , many of them packed in slum colonies , and we are still thinking that everything is all right . And that the armies of the desperate in the slums can meld well with reckless procreation? How can that be? Where is the glorious intersection ?

    Is it not pitiful that we—and that includes the courts, the heavily-opinionated public and the legislature—are still discussing the RH law, calling it names and even applying the word “genocide” to it? Because there is absolutely no reason to revisit the law , the tame and timid law that is notches below the population management laws of nations across the globe.

    Read it in its entirety and you will even find out that this timid and passive law is an oblique antidote to abortion. That it poses no harm to the unborn . Or, are the bishops and the pro-life groups stricken by epistemic closure, and are terror-stricken whenever confronted with fact-based argument?

    When the nation is engaged in a serious conversation , more often that not, it is to drag the discussion back into the old and antiquated paradigms , such as the ancient reproductive health issue , not on new and fresh ones that can ennoble the nation .

    It is as if the capacity to put forward new and exciting ideas into the national conversation had completely deserted us .

    What is sadder is that we are not really this kind of people. Our society used to be dynamic and ambitious , the leadership bold, and the business elite truly forward looking.

    Remember the time when we were one of the first in Asia to build an industrial foundry, a steel complex down south that was aimed at supporting a vibrant manufacturing sector? Our plan then was to steal the manufacturing thunder from the likes of South Korea and rival Japan in the prodigious output of manufactured goods.

    Remember the time when we were leading the agronomy research in the Asian region? And agronomists from other countries often stayed here to train in modern rice production? Our agricultural , veterinary and fishery schools used to be crawling with Thai students , who saw Philippine agri schools as the best and the most competitively-priced training areas in the world.

    Now, it is the reverse. Our graduate students go to Chulalongkorn University to train on agronomy, agri-business management and animal health. We import atis and patis from Bangkok. Many Thai universities are ahead of UP in the global ranking of the world’s best universities .

    Remember the Maphilindo, the pioneering efforts of the three Malay countries to step up political, economic and cultural ties? Back then, we were not a slouch even on the diplomatic/foreign relations front

    Remember the time “Recto” was the all-purpose word to describe brilliance of mind and the grandness of the Filipino thought process? What is defined by “Recto“ now, we do not know .

    How we came to this sad state (we have become a nation too paralyzed to think well and straight ), I do not know. The scholars and the academics should take over—if something still remains of the great public intellectuals that flourished in an earlier era.

    But we can only doubt if there is still intellectual firepower around. The public intellectuals have migrated to TV to hector us on various inanities. What they obsess over is not intellectual output but being made up for performances on the boob tube.

    Every angle and every facet of our national life is a testament to a sad sack of a country still stuck in the old paradigms.

    Can we get over this period of great vacuity and intellectual emptiness ?

    Yes, but first things first. The Court should declare the RH as legal, though underwhelming. Then accompany that landmark decision with a national plea to modernize the national conversation . Drop the ancient and anachronistic part, for the modern, trailblazing and pioneering ones.

    The Court should write in its decision (with the precision and wit of Elena Kagan) that we are now in the 21st century—and that we can’t be a sad sack of a country for as long as we are still enmeshed and ensnared in antiquated and antediluvian ideas.


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    1. “…the armies of the desperate in the slums can meld well with reckless procreation? How can that be? Where is the glorious intersection ?” – I don’t know if the author is just secretly jealous of their power of procreation or is he somehow implying they are slowly sinking to the level of vermin because of their fecundity? and if we look at it, should that be the problem in the first place? or is it the fact that these myriads of poor people don’t have jobs, never went past grade 2, are hungry, etc? whose fault is it? are we beyond the belief that people can rise above their socio-economic realities?

    2. Dominador Reyes on

      Hurray for the RH law!…I hope the detractors have seen the future without it–the population of the Philippines at 150 million or even 200 million in a few years time…mothers dying of unwanted childbirth. Now The USA is 300 million and Canada at 30 million. We can fit inside California…if you want us to be Bangladesh or India go ahead and repeal the law.

    3. Pete Gabriel on

      The RH bill is a much needed solution to the Philippines over population and poverty. For the people, legislatures, and the Catholic church who are so against this law, I say unto you do your arithmetic. Our land and resources can not sustain this growth. The only one benefiting from this debate is the Catholic priest who I really question their motives. The church should be targeted for investigations about their illegal activities and needs to butt out of Philippine politics.

      • um, sorry to break it to you but the overpopulation conundrum is a myth. human resources are still the most potent powerhouse any country can have. look at china and india, rising economic powers because of lots of people! and educated ones. so, i think the problem really is..we need more education, food security, jobs. let’s not band aid the problem with RH. it sucks, big time.

    4. I totally disagree with the author… he is pro-choice… little did he realize that if RH bill is allowed will lead the country into self destruction….his mother decided to allow him to live, what if his mother decided otherwise because the RH bill were allowed ?…

      • Pete Gabriel on

        What you do not know won’t hurt you. What about those poor people just eking out a mere subsistence, those kids that are going hungry because parents don’t have a job, no money to buy food, leaving in cardboard boxes. They are living hell on earth. The country needs a common sense approach, the church birth control solution is abstinence from sex and rhythm method, what a joke. Did you know that the Catholic church is wreck in scandal and here in the US and most of the western world they are still paying for the victims of this pedophile priests. How many priests had to abdicate or get defrock because they themselves fathered children. Let us get out of this middle age mentality, real problem needs real solution.

    5. Ranald Bruce on

      The PH’s over-population is neither an economic boon nor a blessing. It is a death sentence for the Philippines. Try living in abject poverty without enough to eat while priests eat 3 meals a day. The RH bill allows women a choice. That is all.

    6. You are absolutely right on all fronts. This country is not only stuck in the mud of ignorance but has actually regressed to the ideas of Taliban. A lot of people pay more attention to the inane programs of our TV networks and listen more to the unknowledgeable but popular celebrities. They in fact vote them into office. Unlike in many progressive countries, we don’t have experts and intellectuals to listen to with regards to law, economics, science, technology, industry and impartial politics.

    7. domingo ligot on

      This article despite its attempt at brilliant rhetorics posits a simple propositon that from a progressive status decades ago this country deteriorated into what the author calls a “sad sack” state because of unbridled procreation so that once the RH law is declared legal by the courts we shall resume our march towards progress. I do not agree. The author correctly points to the slums as evidence of unbridled procreation and has he wondered why this is so. Simply put the slum people have no other thing to do so they copulate and impregnate their women. I worked with the population commission created under Marcos and at that time contraceptives were distributed for free to the slums areas but did not do much good they did not care then and I do not think they will now.

      • Pete Gabriel on

        I’m sorry Mr. Ligot, but this is just an ignorant observation about the poor. The poor are people too, and if you are just giving them birth control pills without educating them you are just defeating the purpose of giving them a choice. The RH bill is not just about that, it is a comprehensive bill that involves, contraceptives & sex education and it still up to the individuals to make a choice. This is about empowering the people to have a better control of their lives, and not have unwanted pregnancies. You are talking about the past, let’s deal with the problem of today, and have a better approach, and perhaps learn from what did not work in the past.

    8. Phyllis Quinn on

      Mr. Ronquillo, please realize that our large population is an economic boon.
      Please realize that implementation of the TROed RH Act will surely lead us to the same Empty-Cradle fate of the rich countries that passed RH Acts a generation ago.