The poor we will always have in any society. The lack of opportunities, unfortunate circumstances, feeble intelligence, mental or emotional problems, illiteracy, government inefficiency and a host of other causes – result in poverty for a certain percentage of the population all the time. Even in wealthy countries like the United States, there are poor people.
The larger the population, the larger percentage of poor people. This percentage continues to escalate if the number of poor people is not reduced somehow through job creation or some forms of government aid. But if the resources of government are limited and there are just not enough jobs or some sources of livelihood in the public and private sectors, as in the case of third world countries like the Philippines – the percentage of poor people will continue to escalate.
From poor people come more poor people. The more poor, the more suffering for so many: Hunger, malnutrition, a lack of adequate shelter, sanitation problems, ignorance and illiteracy, widespread physical, mental and health problems, criminal survival activities, human trafficking, labor and sexual exploitation, etc.
According to the latest figures, China has a population of 1.34 billion out of which 700 million are considered poor or living below the poverty guidelines. India has a population of 1.2 billion out of which 650 million are poor.
So many global corporations have outsourced their manufacturing operations to China and India because of the lower costs of labor in these countries due to their huge populations of poor people. While both countries have huge Gross National Incomes (GNI), this does not mean that the wealth is properly distributed.
It does mean that the few who are wealthy who have capital and political influence will become richer. The many who are poor will remain poor because they can only be paid so much. Raising the wages of workers above a certain level will lessen profits and lessen competitiveness with other countries.
Thus, mass poverty remains. In China, the number of poor people is more or less controlled because of its strict One Child policy. In India which encourages a two child policy, but does not coerce in implementing its family planning policy, the increase in the number of poor people has slowed but nevertheless continues. In the Philippines, where there is no population control of any kind, the increase in the population of poor people is completely uncontrolled.
The number of small innocent children digging into smelly garbage cans for scraps of food keeps increasing. The same with homelessness and various crimes involving property.
It is not the case that the problem of mass poverty in relation to population growth will just disappear or solve itself through time like teenage acne. Either something or nothing is done about it.
Faced with this reality, in 1976, China’s Deng Xiaoping instituted its One Child Family Planning Policy. The measure is strictly implemented. Couples who violate it pay a heavy penalty. They are fined a huge sum. Twenty three year old Feng Jianmei, who was seven months pregnant could not pay the fine of $6,300 and was forced by family planning officials to abort her child.
Aside from having an essentially autocratic government dominated by the Communist Party, China is not a Christian nation. It has no qualms about utilizing certain forms of population control that would outrage citizens of other nations. Infanticide, abortion and various means of artificial contraceptives, which are issues in other countries like the Philippines – are non issues in China.
India which essentially has a more democratic form of government has long recognized the need for family planning. Since, the 1950s, the government has been campaigning for its citizens to utilize one form of birth control or another to alleviate mass poverty. Admittedly, the government has not fully succeeded. Today, India’s population is more than double than that in the 1950s.
Yes, poor people we will always have with us and continue to increase as the population increases. In the Philippines, which has a huge Catholic population, and which is trying to abide by democratic principles, a long big debate on acceptable population control measures is to be expected and in fact has been ongoing for some time.
Influenced by religious scruples, some intentionally or subconsciously close their eyes to the reality of mass poverty and the terrible sufferings and social implications involved and even try to sell the argument that the wealth of a country depends on the growth of its population. As seen in the case of China, India, and yes, the Philippines, this simply means a concentration and increase of wealth for a relatively small number of people.
The question we need to ask ourselves is: How can we have an effective population control policy in the Philippines?
Here’s my take on this: Clearly, we need to control population growth for the good of all. It’s better to have a smaller population of men and women who have better chances to grow and develop to their highest potentials as human beings than have teeming millions condemned to lives without decent futures and faced with so much suffering.
Some poor couples just keep on having children without thought of tomorrow thinking that maybe one or two of their children might become lucky in some way or another beating the odds, like a Manny Pacquiao and make them wealthy. Better for them to buy one lotto ticket a week. The odds are the same without the trouble of feeding extra mouths.
An effective policy on population control needs to be instituted. But to be effective, it must be acceptable to the people. Acceptable means accepting the reality that the majority of Filipinos are Catholics who believe in the Church’s teachings particularly regarding a strict restriction against abortion and the use of certain contraceptives. We have to work with the given facts.
The reality is that some compromise is needed between opposing parties in order to get legislation such as the RH Bill done. The more acceptable the legislation, the easier is its implementation.
Abortion can never be an acceptable form of population control to a huge majority of Filipinos. I believe however, based on listening to or reading the viewpoints of sincere thinking Catholics – certain forms of contraception, even artificial ones – are acceptable to many Catholics, even if Church authorities may consider them taboo.
Using or not using a form of contraceptive should ultimately be matter of individual conscience – not a matter that ought to be coerced on anyone by a government or by religious authorities. The government is wrong when it makes it a crime for people not to follow their conscience. The same is true with Church authorities when they declare it a sin when well meaning sincere people follow their individual consciences.
Our choice in the Philippines boils down to either having a huge continually growing population of poor people or a smaller one.
Note: The California State Bar honors Atty. Ted Laguatan as one of only 29 lawyers officially certified continuously for more than 25 years as Expert-Specialists in Immigration Law. He also does accident injuries, wrongful death and complex litigation cases. For communications (San Francisco Bay Area) 455 Hickey Blvd. Suite 515, Dal City, Ca 94015. Email [email protected] tel 650 991 1154