MANILA, Philippines (ChurchMilitant.com) - Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, is ensuring free contraception in his country. Duterte signed an executive order on January 9 enacting the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RPRH), which was signed by Benigno Aquino III, Duterte's predecessor.
The law "recognizes the right of Filipinos to decide freely and responsibly on their desired number and spacing of children." In June 2016, on his weekly television show Duterte accused the Catholic Church of using scare tactics to keep the Filipino population ignorant of birth control.
He commented, "Family planning in the country cannot maintain its momentum because you keep the people in total ignorance. You tell the children that they will go to Hell. You always use that to scare them. But that is not true. Hell is here."
Before assuming office, Duterte had promised, "I will reinstall the program of family planning. Three's enough." He seems to be fulfilling his campaign promise with this new push.
Ernesto Pernia, general director of the National Economic and Development Authority, commented, "There is a plan in the next six months for local governments to go out in the field, to do house-to-house visits, identify those in need of family planning, (and work) with all these agencies."
Duterte's push for free birth control has received strong opposition from Catholic leadership. Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), spoke out in July 2016 on the passage of the RPRH in 2012.
Villegas remarked, "When we appealed for morality, our people laughed at vulgarity. When we challenged indecency, we were despised and ridiculed as archaic. When we preached about marriage and family life, we were dismissed as uninformed bachelors."
In comments aimed at Duterte in 2016, who had recently been elected, he further said, "Let this be our commitment. We will stand up for the moral right. We will resist the moral wrong. We will stand and defend every person’s life and dignity. We will shield the weak from harm. We will protect the confused from error."
In November 2016, Villegas advised couples to "shun the ways of selfishness" and to abstain from the "mutual self-degradation" of artificial contraception.
Risa Hontiveros, who co-authored the RPRH bill, said in January 2015, "Each woman and each couple has the right to say, 'are we going to have children? and if so, 'how many years between each child ... so that we can plan for, and actually provide a humane quality of life for each member of this family?'"
In response, Lito Atienza, the former mayor of Manila who opposed the RPRH, commented in the same month, "Valuing life is a golden value of the Filipino mindset. The contraceptive mentality is not correct. The life that is conceived in a woman's womb is a creation of the Almighty."
As mayor of Manila, he didn't allow contraception to be handed out at public health centers. The Catholic Church teaches that using contraception to prevent birth is gravely sinful, which is confirmed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the encyclical "Humanae Vitae."
The Catechism states, "Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other."
In the encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI wrote,
Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children.