Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It Takes Courage to Choose Life

Courage comes in many forms. For some, courage involves physical bravery. History does not lack for examples of noble men and women who refused to seek safety or succor despite overwhelming odds. That's why, perhaps inspite of the movie, we still remember the courageous stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. For others, courage involves sacrifice. Again, history is quick to point out many sterling examples of conscious self-sacrifice for the sake of a greater good. That's why, again perhaps inspite of the overwhelmingly saccharine, almost saintly portrayal of Gandhi in the movie "Gandhi", we still remember the unyielding courage of Mohandas K. Gandhi and the principle of satyagraha.

And yet, for a few, courage involves nothing than an almost singular passion for the truth, and the determination to be ruled by it. One such person is Roberto F. de Ocampo. He writes in Kill "Bill"?:

AT THE outset I have to admit that I am no stranger to condoms and can attest to their effectiveness. I have four children and could have had more but my wife and I agreed that four was enough and implemented that plan accordingly. Furthermore, the bulk of my career had been in public service from the founding of the rural electrification program (early ’70s) to my stint in the Cabinet, and thus I have been to every nook and cranny of the Philippines and have seen the full range of poverty in our country. Given this quick background, one would think that I should be an obvious supporter of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill. I am not. I have serious misgivings about it.

And so, having thrown the gauntlet, Mr. de Ocampo proceeds to articulate, with passionate reason and carefully tempered outrage, why the RH Bill is not merely flawed but is, ultimately, ruinous for all those who respect and cultivate life.

This leads me to my second serious misgiving, namely, the present draft bill contains punitive provisions that are tantamount to an affront to civil liberties and smack of religious persecution. Just read the section mandating private sector employees and private health practitioners to actively promote artificial birth control methods and distribute devices whether or not their conscience and religious convictions agree with the practice. Combine that with the section imposing penalties of imprisonment or fines or both if they don’t follow or are deemed guilty of “perceived violations” and tell me that the bill does not encroach on basic civil rights. Tell me that the bill does not unfairly force a person into a moral dilemma, a State-induced struggle of conscience. This is not education, it’s coercion. This is not choice, it’s threat.

Of course, there are those who would say, “don’t worry, the legislators will get rid of those provisions in the final version.” I wish I could be so sanguine as to simply smile and accept that. But I am not a novice of the legislative process and have been in the trenches of legislative battles often enough to know that a bill’s passage is not a clinical operation but goes from compromise to compromise and finally ends up with implementing rules and regulations to provide it with sharper enforcement teeth. Whatever the outcome, the law cannot be so toothless as to be useless, or why have a bill at all? If it is a law with teeth, it has to be enforced and enforcement of laws often involves the arena of litigation. Litigation on the other hand opens the door for abuses by the unscrupulous and the harassment of even the upright citizen. I don’t know about you, but I for one am not prepared to surrender one of my most sacred human rights and personal choices by seeing it transferred by the State from the arena of personal morality and conscience to the arena of legislation and litigation.

Finally, I find it truly disingenuous for anyone to proceed on the premise that the poor are to blame for the nation’s poverty. This seems to be one of the bill’s underlying economic philosophies—i.e., we could be such a richer nation if the poor would do something better than just go forth and multiply. Pardon me, but in the context of our income-distribution challenged society, the poor are often the victims, not the problem. And let’s not forget that it’s the poor, not the wealthy, whose acknowledged sacrifices as overseas workers are propping up this struggling economy. If a major concern of the bill is to help reduce poverty, then I cannot believe that the bill’s proponents and supporters are unaware of the many other major factors that are the root causes of poverty (poor governance, corruption, severely unequal distribution of wealth, low productivity, unattractive investment policies, etc.) and, of course, the many other alternatives that can be brought to bear to address them (giving up pork barrel, reforming land reform, raising tax collection efficiency, curtailing dynastic politics, etc.).

Courage comes in many forms. Some of them come clad in nothing more than a loincloth, and involves the evisceration of their hated foes. Others still come clad in nothing more than yet another loincloth, and involves turning hatred into admiration.

Today, we are privileged to be reminded once again of the many forms courage can take. And one of them is former Finance Secretary, perpetual raconteur, and sometime lounge singer, Roberto F. de Ocampo.


Anonymous said...

Considering that those who are enlightened enough to oppose the RH/Abortion Bill (HB 5043) are often harangued and ridiculed, Ocampo has indeed shown courage. And I admire his simple yet very articulate arguments. We need more people like him to stand up and oppose this draconian and deadly bill.

John-D Borra said...

Manny, it is indeed sad that people who stand up for their convictions regarding the RH Bill are set upon almost immediately by a pack of wolves calling for blood.

We need more people to stand by their principles and profess to promote the truth, regardless of the consequences.


HappiHappi said...

Johnds that was a great post! So eloqent. ;)

John-D Borra said...

Thanks for the kind words Tweet! I hope you and Tom are well. Keep on posting links to music you like. It's how I remain cool and relevant when talking to youngsters. :)

Loopy said...

Yes - this is a great post and I'll be sharing it, ok?

I know it's trendy now to support this bill, but I think a bulk of those people are just supporting it on the grounds that they feel the need to "modernize" our predominantly Catholic nation. But there's nothing backwards about respecting someone's beliefs and how he chooses to manifest them. And indeed in some of the more progressive countries, being too "neutral" has been seen to cause more harm than good.

It's bull to shoot down people who speak against the bill as being blind yes-men of the Church (with the seemingly no-longer practical notions on procreation that come along with the institution). But that just means there's not much weight in their convictions to begin with. :P

John-D Borra said...

Ther, repost away! :)