Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentines day and hypocrisy

This is my column today.

There are days when I wish there’s a device that automatically triggers off alarm bells when hypocrisy reaches untenable levels in this country. If there is something that we have a constant oversupply of, it’s hypocrisy. There are just too many people in this country who really need to subject themselves to regular and earnest reality checks.

Take the case of the Catholic bishops’ recent thinly veiled threat to government on the issue of distribution of condoms on Valentine’s Day. Consider what the archbishop of Jaro Angel Lagdameo said: “The Church is against the distribution of condoms especially on Valentine’s Day because we know how the use of contraceptives affects the morality of our people and our society in general.” By saying “they know” how the use of contraceptives affects the morality of our people, are our bishops talking from personal experience? I’m not being facetious. The church is establishing a causal relationship between contraception and morality so they must know something scientists don’t. No wonder the whole church is caught up in a series of sexual scandals.

The Church does not want people to use condoms, but is quite happy and content to ride along with the hoopla and the gimmickry that encourages people to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sure, they prattle on and on about fidelity and chastity but don’t really back their words with specific and concrete actions and programs. In fact, most religious organizations sponsored mass weddings to celebrate Valentine’s, effectively sending the message that as long as people get married eventually it is okay to indulge in sexual relations.

The whole world is involved in a global conspiracy to pressure people into celebrating love in big, grandiose and passionate ways. Malls and department stores, media channels, and everyone else scream exhortations for people to go out and express their love for each other. Establishments in the hospitality industry from restaurants to hotels to motels roll out the red carpet, complete with rose petals and crispy pata. The church doesn’t direct its ire on the whole phenomenon that for all intents and purposes pushes people into having sex on Valentine’s Day; it just doesn’t want the government to distribute condoms. In short, they don’t care if people have sex, they just don’t want them to use condoms. What hypocrisy!

Lagdameo’s gibberish was amplified by Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo who used Valentines day to assail the reproductive health bill pending in Congress. He said that the RH bill, when passed, “would boost sex liberalization in the country, which could also lead to an increase in sex crimes.” There is no scientific data that backs up the statement. The bishop packaged a personal opinion as a definitive statement of fact. It was an irresponsible statement to make.

It should be pointed out that the strict morality imposed by the Church among its members has not really prevented sexual crimes within the hierarchy. The church spends too much time talking about sex liberalization and sexual crimes but refuses to acknowledge the alarming levels of sexual crimes committed by its members. Again, what hypocrisy!

But then again, the Church has been at it for centuries so I can understand the reason behind the bishops’ doubletalk. What I cannot understand is why the government is kowtowing to the bishops on a matter so grave that it makes the difference between life and death for many. Responding to questions on whether the government intended to distribute condoms as HIV/AIDS prevention strategy on Valentine’s Day, Health Secretary Enrique Ona parroted the bishops stance by saying the government “was promoting abstinence and monogamy among Filipinos to combat the disease.” Let’s cut the crap and simplify what he really means— the government under his watch is not doing anything at all to stop HIV/AIDS infections.

Ona is oblivious to tons of scientific data that prove the efficacy of promoting condom use among certain populations to manage HIV/AIDS infections. For the first time in three decades, we have a health secretary who just does not care about the rising rates of HIV/AIDS infections. And yet this government actually crows about “caring” for the people and “serving” the people. The dismal failure does not just smack of hypocrisy; it’s a crime.

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