Most Filipino voters prefer candidates in favor of modern family planning methods, according to a recent survey.
The February 21 to 25 Pre-Election Survey on Family Planning conducted by Pulse Asia showed that 64 percent of voters would choose candidates who publicly promote modern family planning methods, a key component of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill that continues to languish in Congress, compared to 6 percent who said they would reject these candidates and 30 percent who were undecided.
Many of the nine presidential aspirants have either rejected or taken a neutral stance on the RH bill. This has been attributed by many political observers to the unflinching opposition of the Catholic church to a measure it sees as promoting immorality and abortion.
The church has always been seen to wield considerable influence in a country with a predominantly Catholic population.
But the survey also showed a majority of the respondents disagreeing with the church, with 51 percent of respondents saying it is not a sin to use birth control pills, condoms, intra-uterine devices or seek ligation.
Only 29 percent said it is a sin and 20 percent were undecided.
The survey also showed 75 percent of respondents believing it is very important or important for a candidate to include family planning in his/her program of action, with only 6 percent saying it is not important, and 19 percent undecided.
Eighty-seven percent of the respondents also said it is very important or important for the government to allocate a budget for family planning, with 4 percent saying it is not important and 10 percent undecided.
The survey of 1,800 respondents had a +/-2 percent margin of error.
It was conducted at the height of the controversy over the Department of Health’s distribution of condoms, part of the agency’s campaign for HIV/AIDS awareness, which had church leaders calling for the resignation of Secretary Esperanza Cabral.
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, one of the main proponents of the RH bill, said the measure should be enacted to “institutionalize family planning and reproductive health as priority national policies, rather than leave these overriding concerns to the varying and vague personal preferences of the national executive leadership.”
“It would provide a nationwide and comprehensive approach to family planning which is rights-based, health-oriented and development-propelled, unlike the present fragmented and differing implementation depending on the peculiar idiosyncrasies of local executives,” Lagman said in a statement.
Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), stressed: “If the next president is serious in addressing poverty in the country, then he/she must face head-on the issue of family planning” and “not be cowed by the Catholic church’s opposition to modern and effective methods of family planning.”