Philippine President-Elect Takes on Catholic Church Over Birth Control

Philippine President-Elect Takes on Catholic Church Over Birth Control
Photo Credit: EPA/達志影像

What you need to know

Filipino politicians have avoided clashing with the Catholic Church in the past, but the country's president-elect doesn't seem to be too concerned.

Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte on June 26 said in a speech that he intends to promote artificial birth control even if puts him in conflict with the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is a dominant force in the Philippines, as over four-fifths of the population of nearly 101 million people are Catholic.

“I will reinstall the program of family planning. Three [children] is enough,” the International Business Times reported Duterte as saying. Duterte also said he was opposing the Church because the Church was no longer “realistic.”

While Duterte was mayor of the southern city of Davao, he offered cash incentives to residents who agreed to undergo free vasectomy or ligation as well as to the doctors who provided them.

On his weekly TV show on June 25, Duterte accused Church officials of using "scare tactics" to discourage Catholics from using birth control, Politiko reports. “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,” he said.

Filipino politicians in the past have largely tried avoiding friction with the Church by taking a vague position or not aggressively advocating contraceptive use.

Duterte’s successor, Benigno Aquino III, was involved in a high-profile quarrel for signing a reproductive health law in 2012 allowing the government finance acquisition and distribution of contraceptives.

Catholic leaders considered the law an attack on core Church values, but Aquino’s government said it helped the poor with birth control. Duterte praised Aquino for his policies on contraceptives in the same speech on June 27, the Washington Post reported.

Duterte does not seem to share the hesitance among Filipino politicians to oppose Catholic beliefs. In the same speech on June 26, he made fun of the Catholic practice of venerating saints, the PhilStar reports. He has also called the Church “the most hypocritical institution,” claiming that bishops teach morality but have failed to address clergy sexual abuses.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole