BY the time this gets to print, I would have flown to Budapest, Hungary, where the family-friendly government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban is hosting the 11th World Congress of Families, billed as the Budapest Family Summit. I am one of many speakers from various parts of the world, and will be talking about “Building Family Friendly Countries.” I will also speak at the Global Forum for Political Leaders at the Hungarian Parliament.
The condition of the family is a central issue in our troubled age, and no more significant global political or cultural activity is happening anywhere in the world at this time. Not that what happened in Saudi Arabia during the near-royal state visit of US President Donald Trump was hardly important, but many of my foreign friends would rather follow the event in Budapest.
I have been “conferencing” most of my public life, and more than any other subject, the one of human life, family and marriage has increasingly taken up more space these last 25 years. First, the conferences organized by the Holy See, during the time of St. Pope John Paul II, through Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and into Pope Francis. These include the World Meeting of Families, the World Youth Days, the International Conferences on Bioethics, the Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman. And then this series of inter-faith conferences organized by the World Congress of Families, also from JPII’s pontificate. For me, if you want to defend and protect what is sacred and lasting in society, the family is an indispensable involvement.
The World Congress of Families
The WCF was founded in 1997 by American Professor Allan Carlson, president of Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, who served as its president until his recent retirement. He was succeeded by Brian Brown, who is also the president of the International Organization for the Family, and who in turn is ably assisted by Larry Jacobs, managing director. The WCF was first convened that year in Prague. I spoke to that Congress, together with so many distinguished family life speakers, including the late Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who became a close guide.
I came to the Geneva Congress in 1999, but missed Mexico in 2004 and Warsaw in 2007, which were both election years. I came to Amsterdam in 2009, and to Madrid in 2012. Missed Sydney in 2013, another election year, but spoke again at the next Congress in Salt Lake City in 2015. I missed last year’s meeting in Tsibili, Georgia, another election year. This would be the sixth time I would be participating in the Congress.
As far as I know this is the first time a government has agreed to host an international family conference. In most of these conferences, the government’s attitude is one of studied indifference. I am eager to find out what makes the Orban government different from the others, and what effect its pro-family policies have had on its relationship with the populace. Perhaps there’s something the Duterte government could learn from it.
The demographic crisis
While the Budapest Family Summit is on, President Rodrigo Duterte will be in Moscow talking with Russian President Vladimir about trade, investments and military cooperation. He has already told the press he wants Russia to sell him some precision bombs. I do not understand why he should be announcing these details. Just who is his intended audience? But it would be good if DU30, after the necessary briefing from our able Philippine ambassador to Russia, Carlos “King” Sorreta, could ask Putin about his demographic and family policies, by means of which he and the Russian people seek to turn back the deadly demographic winter, which has caused Russia’s population to shrink rather than grow every year.
For instance, in 2016, Russia had a population of 143,439,832–which was 17,086 smaller than its 2015 population of 143,456,918, and a population density of 9 per square kilometer, as against Monaco’s 15,254 per sqkm, Singapore’s 7,987.52, Hong Kong’s 6,442.65, and the Gaza Strip’s 5,045.5. At one point, Putin was reported to have said, Russia despite its military strength could no longer become a world power, because it no longer had the necessary population. Population is power. China has 1.371 billion people as of 2015; India, 1.371 billion; the US, 321.4 million. Perhaps DU30 could learn from Putin’s appreciation of a nation’s robust population as a resource rather than as a problem, and stop tinkering with the normal growth of the Philippine population.
In 2011, the Moscow Demographic Summit warned against the “approaching worldwide depopulation” caused by the quickly declining fertility rates below replacement level. The summit declaration called attention to the destruction of universal family, conjugal and parental roles based on traditional family values; the disruption of the family’s reproductive functions; the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS associated with contraceptive thinking (safe sex) and destructive premarital and extramarital sex patterns; widespread divorce; cohabitation without marriage; growing numbers of single parents; and other harmful social deviations.
All nations challenged
The declaration challenged all nations and international institutions to develop a pro-family demographic policy and a special international pro-family strategy and action plan aimed at consolidating family and marriage, protecting human life from conception to natural death, increasing the birth rate and averting the menace of depopulation. It called for an end to state interference with the private life of families under the pretext of family planning, protection of the rights of the child, gender equality, birth control, etc.
The demographic summit was followed not much later by a large meeting organized by Orthodox Christians with government support on “the large family as the key to the future of mankind.” In my speech at the Kremlin I said this theme could launch the moral revolution of our time. A year before that I had the privilege of helping launch the Parents Federation of Russia in Moscow, together with American author and pro-family leader, Janice Crouse, the executive director of the ninth WCF in Salt Lake, Utah.
American participation has always been the most significant in all these congresses. This is likely to grow even more after the recent pro-family and pro-life initiatives under President Donald Trump. But the Russian participation, which has always been significant, is also likely to grow. The Russian delegation is expected to be led by Rev. Dmitry Smirnov, Patriarchal Commission on the Family of the Russian Orthodox Church, Natalia Yakunina, chair of the board of trustees of the Sanctity of Motherhood, Russia, and Alexey Komov, WCF representative in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The high points of the Moscow declaration are likely to be revisited and resonate in the speeches and final statement at the summit.
I was looking forward to this Congress not only because of its own merits, but also because I thought I needed a breath of fresh air from the asphyxiating world of DU30 politics. After listening to the endless babble from the presidency for nearly a year, I thought I finally reached my saturation point when I read DU30’s latest babble about China threatening us with war. I felt I was beginning to lose my mind just trying to decide how much longer I could take DU30 seriously as “president.”
The absurdity at home
Nowhere in the history of nations have we ever encountered a leader who ruled with such bluff and bluster to subjugate his own people, but when threatened with hostilities or war by his closest neighbor, for wanting to assert his rights over his own territorial domain, simply turned tail and told his people, “China will go to war if we insist on our rights,” instead of giving his Chinese master a smack on the kisser or a piece of his mind.
All this we learned from the horse’s mouth, DU30 himself, not from any other source. That is why we cannot accept Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s belated and belabored explanation that President Xi Jinping did not say to DU30 what DU30 said he had said to him about going to war. One has to believe DU30 on this, even if one does not believe him on anything else. In another time and another place, Prime Minister Chamberlain told his countrymen to go home and get a good night’s sleep because the German Fuhrer had just promised England and Europe abundant peace. Now DU30 tells his countrymen not to insist on any maritime rights they might think they have, because Xi promises them war should they cross the nine-dash line.
This is absurd enough, but the real absurdity happens when several senators and even our esteemed Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio threaten to file yet another case against China before the United Nations for threatening to use force should the Philippines decide to drill for oil in the disputed areas, the right to which the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague had already conceded to the Philippines. China has refused to recognize the arbitral process and its 2016 ruling; what makes these people think China will recognize a second UN process and ruling?
It’s DU30, not China
It is not China, however, whom we should try to hold to account here. It is the President himself. China has no duty to protect our sovereign and territorial rights and interests as Filipinos; this constitutional duty belongs to the President of the Philippines. If China had threatened him with war, his duty was to answer it. But if he failed to do so, it means he was derelict in his duty; he failed to stand up for his rights and duties as President of the Republic. He has failed his mandate. This is the real issue here. And it is not a UN affair; it is the sole affair of the Filipino people vis-a-vis their President.
We need a President who will fight for our rights, die for them if necessary, and not one who will tell our people we cannot do it because the biggest guy in the neighborhood tells us we can’t do it. If we believe the place is ours, and so many in the world seem to agree with us, then we should have the courage as a sovereign state to work the area according to our best interests, without asking anybody’s permission for it. And we should be prepared for the consequences.
If China unleashes its fury upon us, then we should be ready to perish in defense of our sovereign national interests. If our Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States means anything, this would be the right time to put it to the test. But turning tail is certainly no alternative. Cowardice should never be excused, whether in war or in peace. Like King Leonidas of Sparta, against the massive armies of the god-king Xerxes, DU30 should have told Xi that he would lead “300 Davaoeños” to die in the West Philippine/South China Sea, if needed.