MANILA, Philippines – Senator Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday, January 17, slammed Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial and her department's plan to distribute condoms in schools.
"Look who's talking? It's a boomerang to her. She should not only impose her beliefs on us who oppose but to the entire country. It's insensitive to dismiss the sentiment of a conservative culture just because they failed to implement effective health programs," Sotto said in a statement sent to reporters on Tuesday.
On Monday, January 16, Ubial posted a barrage of tweets on her Twitter account in defense of their proposed condom distribution in schools.
She said condoms "will not be given like candies" and the distribution "will be done with very close supervision and counseling."
"Our call on oppositors: DO NOT IMPOSE YOUR BELIEFS ON OTHERS!" she said in a tweet.
"Let those who want to practice safe sex do so – according to their own beliefs and consciences. My question to those who oppose: if you have better ideas in reducing STI among the youth, then let's hear it. Give us your options! If you don't want condom use among sexually active young people, what do you want us to do?"
Our call on oppositors: DO NOT IMPOSE YOUR BELIEFS ON OTHERS! — Paulyn Rosell-Ubial (@Dok_Pau) January 16, 2017 Let those who want to practice safe sex do so--according to their own beliefs and consciences. — Paulyn Rosell-Ubial (@Dok_Pau) January 16, 2017 My question to those who oppose: if you have better ideas in reducing STI among the youth, then let's hear it. Give us your options! — Paulyn Rosell-Ubial (@Dok_Pau) January 16, 2017 If you don't want condom use among sexually active young people, what do you want us to do? — Paulyn Rosell-Ubial (@Dok_Pau) January 16, 2017
On Tuesday, Sotto – a known critic of the reproductive health law – reminded Ubial that her position in the Department of Health (DOH) is "temporary but the damage you will cause cannot be reversed."
But what is his alternative to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among the youth?
"I've been saying it over and over again that they should instead embark on effective information campaign on moral values and against HIV/AIDS to the benefit of the Filipino youth," Sotto added.
'We will implement it!'
According to the health secretary, the idea behind the proposal is not to give an impression that "it's okay to have premarital sex."
"We promote first and foremost [abstinence], delay of sexual debut, NO to premarital sex! If that cannot happen – be faithful to your partners. If that cannot be followed, USE CONDOM," she said in several tweets.
According to her, there are "studies globally" that showed providing condoms did not promote promiscuity and even "made sexually-active teens more cautious and knowledgeable" about unplanned pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections.
"We want to promote any strategy that will promote health, protect [our] people from disease and ensure the enjoyment of their rights and freedom under the Constitution. As long as it is scientifically effective and safe, it's legally acceptable, not abortifacient according to individual concerns and informed choice, we will implement it!"
The DOH is in the final stages of planning for the distribution of condoms in schools.
In Quezon City, however, Mayor Herbert Bautista has already prohibited the national government from pushing through with the plan.
"We will not allow the distribution of condoms in public schools. We will allow the use of QC public health facilities, but not QC public schools," Bautista said in his text message to city health officer Dr Verdades Linga.
Reacting to this news, Health Spokesperson Eric Tayag said in a tweet that "there is nothing to disallow because there is no condom distribution being done by DOH" in QC schools.
There is nothing to disallow because there is NO condom distribution being done by @DOHgovph. #true https://t.co/23HkuPPeJN — Doc Eric Tayag (@erictayagSays) January 16, 2017
Addressing concerns that the program might lead to promiscuity, Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said the DOH's plan will be done with "great sensitivity."
Briones also raised alarm over the rising levels of teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS in the Philippines. (READ: WHO: PH has fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world)
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.