I HAVE strongly disagreed with President Rodrigo Duterte on many issues. This time, I must commend President Rpdrigo Duterte’s move in recently signing Executive Order No. 12, which sets in motion the government’s drive for the full implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law and thus check the galloping population that is a hindrance to national development.

According to a social activist, former Congressman Walden Bello, “in terms of economic and social indicators, the Philippines was ahead of Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam 40 years ago. Today, we are behind and face the dismal prospect of falling even further in the next few years. And a major part of the reason is that in contrast to the Philippines, the three carried out successful population management programs.

The unchecked population growth, unwanted teen-age pregnancies and maternal deaths at the rate of 11 fatalities daily, prompted the last Congress under the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III, to pass the RH Law in December 2012 despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that the RH Law is constitutional. The SC itself said that the “policy of the Court is not interference in the wisdom of the law.” Surprisingly, the SC suddenly issued a TRO preventing the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) from performing their mandates under the law. Then Congress last year cut by P1 billion the 2.2 billion peso budget for family health and responsible parenting guaranteed under the RH Law of 2012.

We cannot understand why the Church is still opposing a law which has been the subject of 14-year long debate and which is supported by the overwhelming majority of our people. By blocking the full implementation of the RH Law, the bishops will help promote maternal deaths at the rate of 4,015 yearly due to mothers’ lack of access to maternal health care, and worsen massive poverty which is the breeding ground of criminality and drug addiction.

President Duterte’s issuance of EO No. 12 is a step in the right direction.--Democrito C. Barcenas