Bishops seek ban on condom ads in media, billboards

by Andreo C. Calonzo

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Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines HQ

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has called for a ban on condom advertisements in public places, in print, and broadcast media, saying these commercials “weaken the moral fiber” of the youth.

The “multi-million dollar condom business… heavily targets the adolescent market, at the expense of morality and family life,” the CBCP said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday.

The announcement came after the Department of Health distributed condoms last month.

“Condom advertisements should be banned on television, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, and public places, as they desensitize the youth’s delicate conscience and weaken their moral fiber as future parents,” CBCP president Bishop Nereo Odchimar said in the same statement.

Odchimar also called on the Department of Health (DOH) to require condom manufacturers to place a government warning saying that “condoms may fail to protect from AIDS [Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome] and other sexually transmitted diseases” on the packaging of these artificial contraceptives.

“Consumer groups should insist on the right to know the real characteristics of products they use, and that corresponding labels be conspicuously displayed in packaging,” he said.

The CBCP president also maintained that the use of condoms, which is currently being promoted by the DOH, does not stop but contributes to the further spread of AIDS.

“Given its high failure rate, the condom cannot really put a stop to AIDS. Moreover, by creating a false sense of security, it condones and encourages promiscuity outside of marriage, and hence contributes to the further spread of AIDS,” he said.

The health department’s move to distribute condoms last Valentine’s Day for AIDS awareness was considered “immoral,” by the bishops.

The department said that it had recorded two cases per day of the deadly disease last year.

But Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral defended her department’s condom distribution efforts, and criticized the Catholic Church by saying that it should share the blame for the government’s failure to stem the rising number of AIDS cases in the country.

In the same statement, Odchimar also asked the government to re-channel all funding involved in promoting condoms to efforts in fighting other diseases such as cancer, influenza and tuberculosis, and to the provision of basic needs such as food and medicine.

“It is unjust that the taxes of the people including Catholics are used for purposes against their moral beliefs,” the bishop said.

Condom distributor to continue its advocacy

In the meantime, one of the companies which distribute condoms in the Philippines said that it will “remain supportive of its advocacy to educate people so that they will make informed choices.”

“We will continue to provide products and information that are accessible and affordable to the poorer segments of the population,” Jojo Ampeloquio, DKT Philippines Inc.’s head of product development told GMANews.TV in a phone interview.

Besides distributing Trust condoms, DKT Philippines Inc. also sells oral and injectable contraceptives, its website says.

It is also engaged in daily community activities “all across the country” which promote family planning, Ampeloquio said.

The Philippines’ National Family Planning Program is even discussed in our community activities, he added, refusing to name locations of these communities.

He added that condom use in the Philippines has risen at lower than double digit levels, which he considers “disappointing.”

Increase in condom use is “at a rate very much lower than the HIV [human immunodeficiency virus] prevalence.”

Ampeloquio also disputed Catholic bishops’ allegations that the company’s products are of inferior quality.

“I cannot speak for products of our competitors but our products are very affordable and are of high quality,” he said.

Condom ad ban may violate free speech

In Dumaguete, Liberal Party presidential bet Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III said that the condom ad ban may violate the constitutional right to free speech.

Although he intends to study the matter further, banning such ads may touch on the freedom of speech, which is enshrined under Article III, Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution.

Calling for a condom ad ban involves “issues of freedom of speech among other things,” he said. “The Catholic Church may have its concerns about morality but the state also needs to ensure the health of its citizens.”

The only factors that can trigger such a ban involve offending morals and questions of obscenity, he said.

Aquino added that he will not likely bow to the Catholic Church’s call to stop giving out contraceptives.

Individuals who make informed decisions to use contraceptives see nothing wrong with it, he said. – with Robert JA Basilio Jr./HGS, GMANews.TV

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