Bernardo M. Villegas
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How to Solve Demographic Crisis (Part 2)

        As Singapore realized several decades ago, solving the demographic crisis now besetting many developed and even some emerging nations today is not a matter of giving economic incentives.  Unless we resolve some fundamental philosophical and theological issues, material rewards to have more children will fail to compensate for the material costs of having children, such as the opportunity costs of giving up professional and other self-fulfillment goals especially of women as well as the actual economic costs of raising children, as we saw in the case of China.  In any given society, there will have to be countervailing non-material values that will make it worthwhile for a married couple to make the necessary economic and psychic sacrifices necessary in raising children.  Fortunately, in the Philippines, despite very aggressive population control programs that some of our former Governments have implemented, the psychic, moral and spiritual values assigned by the majority of Filipinos to bringing up children within the family has not led to a precipitous decline in our fertility rate, which continues to be at above-replacement level.

            Survey after survey by social scientists have revealed that the family ranks as number one in the the hierarchy of values of Filipinos.   Research on happiness also always shows that the family is the greatest source of human happiness to us as a people.  In addition to a cultural heritage we share in common with our Southeast Asian neighbors, this great value we assign to the family may also be explained by the Christian beliefs of the majority of our population.  In common with the Jews and the Muslims who also believe in the Old Testament, we believe that the family—whose root is the institution of marriage between a man and a woman—was willed directly by the Creator.  As we read in the very first book of the Old Testament, Genesis, marriage and the family proceed directly from a divine institution: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them, and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and have domination over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”  Increase in the population that people the earth is, therefore, willed by the Creator.”  As regards marriage and the family, the means of lawfully filling the earth, the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them…but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’  Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed of it.” (Genesis 2, 15 – 25)

            Only by nurturing these fundamental beliefs and values that are part of our culture, especially among the younger couples, can we guarantee that we will not fall into the contraceptive and anti-life mentality that has become pervasive in many developed countries. Only a true philosophical conception of the nature of marriage and the primary role of the family as the very foundation of society will prevent a precipitous decline in fertility rates that can be traced to a purely materialistic view towards marriage and the upbringing of children.

            Actually, these philosophical principles about family and marriage are the ultimate foundation of what we read in the Declaration of Principles and State Policies found in the Philippine Constitution of 1987.  In Section 12 of Article II of the Constitution, we read: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.  It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the young for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.”  Not content with these very explicit statements about the value of the family and the protection of the unborn baby (against the widespread practice of abortion in many societies today), the framers of the Constitution introduced a unique article not to be found in our previous constitutions.  There is an added Article XV on “The Family” with four sections, as follows:

            Section 1:  The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation.  Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.

            Section 2.  Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and  shall be protected by the State.

            Section 3.  The State shall defend:

1.     The right of spouses to find a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.

2.     The right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development;

3.     The right of the family to a family living wage and income;

4.     The right of families or family associations to participate in the planning and implementation of policies and programs that affect them;

 

Section 4

The family has the duty to care for its elderly members but the State may also do so through just programs of social security.

            The very pro-family provisions, adequate protection for both the parents and the children, will go a long way in helping married couples to overcome the resistance to have children because of the modern inconveniences enumerated above to have large families.  It is hoped that these very clear pro-family indications found in our Constitution will lead to more laws in the future to actually specify what exactly a just family wage has to be; better social security for the millions of self-employed micro entrepreneurs; incentives (instead of penalties through the tax system) for couples to have more children. To be continued.