Philippines’ President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he would promote artificial birth control in the country even if it means getting in a fight with the Catholic church, a dominant force in the country that strongly opposes the use of contraceptives.
He even joked about cutting off the penises of defiant men. Duterte, who is to be sworn in as president on Thursday, reportedly said that having too many children had forced poor families deeper into poverty and recommended that people have three children at most. The Philippines has one of Asia's fastest-growing populations.
“I will reinstall the program of family planning. Three is enough,” he said in a speech after a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Davao city hall. “I've also been colliding with the church because it's no longer realistic.”
The family planning program he mentioned refers to his time as the mayor of the southern city of Davao when he had offered cash rewards to villagers who volunteered to undergo free vasectomy or ligation and to doctors who performed the procedures.
Most politicians have tried to avoid clashes with the influential Catholic bishops by taking a vague position on the issue of the use of contraceptives.
Duterte, in his speech, praised ex-President Fidel Ramos, the country's first Protestant leader, for promoting contraceptives in 1992. Ramos backed Duterte’s presidential candidacy.
Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino III also featured in a high-profile argument with the church for signing a reproductive health law in 2012 that permitted the government to finance the acquisition and distribution of contraceptives. Church leaders considered this law an attack on the church’s core values. But, Aquino's government said it helped the poor manage the number of children.
During his presidential campaign, Duterte had a spat with Catholic bishops when he cursed Pope Francis for reportedly causing a monstrous traffic jam during his visit in January last year. Last month, Duterte described the Catholic church “the most hypocritical institution” and accused some of its bishops of asking for favors from politicians.