Teodoro favors cash perks for natural birth control
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro Wednesday offered no apologies for abandoning the reproductive health bill, and even proposed granting cash incentives poor families practicing natural birth control methods.
The administration standard-bearer found himself defending his and his wife’s decision to withdraw support from the controversial measure before doctors and medical students in a forum at the University of the Philippines in Manila.
At the forum dubbed “Make Health Count,” Teodoro explained that the debate over the measure in the House of Representatives had become so “acrimonious” that the stakeholders totally forgot about the problem of population.
“The big debate is whether or not the government can shape a moral choice. And that is the argument of the Church. That the government should not actively advocate for making a moral choice. The debate stopped there,” he said.
Teodoro indicated that he agreed with the Church position, and said that the government should be “neutral” but should support the “moral choice” of every individual with resources.
The Church, for its part, should take it upon itself to shape the “moral choice” by acknowledging the problem of a growing population, he added.
“What should the government do? Instead of being involved in debate, we should support a moral choice,” he said in response to former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez’s question why he and his wife Tarlac Rep. Nikki Prieto-Teodoro withdrew support from the bill. “I’d rather have resources to support a moral choice rather than fight over a bill.”
Teodoro said there was a need to come to a “mutual and common understanding” on addressing population “whereby the government respects the moral choice and provides resources toward supporting that moral choice.”
Pending for years
“If they use the rhythm method, we can have some resources to support that by a conditional cash transfer if they do not a have birth within a year or so for the poorest of the poor,” he said, referring to the government’s program of granting cash to poor families with children enrolled in public schools.
The bill known as the “Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008” has been pending for years in the House due to fierce opposition from the Church.
It promotes information and access to both natural and modern family planning methods, and assures an enabling environment where women and couples have the freedom of informed choice on the mode of family planning they want to adopt based on their needs, personal convictions and religious beliefs, according to its authors.
Romualdez was unimpressed with Teodoro’s explanation, observing that he merely reduced the debate to a problem of population and economics.
“I think he has a problem with appreciating the problem of reproductive health as simply a problem of population and economics. It’s an issue of the rights of women to determine what to do with themselves,” he said in an interview.
He branded Teodoro’s pronouncement that the government should support the people’s choice as a “motherhood statement.”
“He has caved in to the Church and agreed with his President, whose position is the reason why we have a big problem in population,” Romualdez said.