Bernardo M. Villegas
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Next Administration Should Be Pro-Life

           I am often asked in economic briefings I give what criteria I personally have to decide on who should be the next President.  In addition to the usual qualifications of honesty and managerial competence, I add that the next President should be pro-life, recognizing the great contribution to Philippine progress of a “young and growing population.”   I have not read any positive assessment of the Philippine economy that does not mention this important demographic advantage of the Philippines in a region in which it is surrounded by ageing and declining populations such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and even developing countries like China and Thailand.  The last-mentioned is the unluckiest of the ageing countries:  it is still rather poor but is already experiencing the travails of a demographic winter like that of Singapore, where the Prime Minister recently  uttered a plaintive cry:  “Who will take care of us when we get old?”

          I am very glad that Pope Francis, despite speculations about his so-called “liberal views”, did not pull any punches when he criticized the birth control proponents in his recent social encyclical “Laudato Si” on climate change. In paragraph 50 of said encyclical, he wrote:  “Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate.  At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of ‘reproductive health’.  Yet ‘while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacle to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.’  To blame population growth instead of extreme and select consumerism on the part of some is one way of refusing to face the issues.  It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption.  Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor.”

          What the Pope says can fully apply to what happened during the debates on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Law.  It was public knowledge that the US Government had put pressure on the Philippine President to support the RH Law by dangling economic incentives of official development assistance.  From my personal involvement in the deliberations in Congress, I had knowledge of members of the House of Representatives who were pro-life but decided to be absent during the crucial vote because they were promised pork barrel privileges.  It is well known that the American lobby in favor of contraceptives can be traced to a secret memorandum written by then State Secretary Henry Kissinger to the President of the United States, blatantly stating that the American standard of consumption would be endangered if the populations of  the emerging markets would not be curbed since  there will be competition for the resources of the exporting countries.

            Since I am not a voter in the US elections, I can only pray that the next Administration there would temper the very aggressive stance the previous US Governments have taken in favor of promoting abortion all over the world.  Again, we should be thankful to Pope Francis for reiterating the inhumanity and immorality of killing babies in the wombs of their mothers:  “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.  How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and cause difficulties?  If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. (Laudato Si, par. 120).   The next Philippine President, in addition to respecting the constitutional provision mandating the State to “protect the unborn from conception,” should also be pro-life enough to look for alternative solutions to eradicating poverty rather than resorting to the simplistic measure of distributing artificial contraceptives.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.