MANILA -- Catholic bishops in the country are calling on the government to totally ban condom advertisements in mass media and public places, saying these commercials affect morality and family life.

The Department of Health (DOH) has been promoting the use of condoms since February this year as part of its nationwide campaign and public awareness program against the spread of Human Immuno Virus-Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-Aids).

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The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), however, said the condom advertisements should not be allowed in television, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, as well as in places frequently visited by the public.

CBCP President Bishop Nereo Odchimar said the commercials do not only affect morality and family life but also desensitize the youth’s delicate conscience and weaken their moral fibers as future parents.

The bishops’ group urged the government to instead use its fund for condom promotion in fighting diseases, such as diarrhea, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, cancer, hypertension and influenza, which had affected many people in the country.

“Available resources should instead be channeled to provide basic needs such as food, medicines, education and work. Furthermore, it is unjust that the taxes of the people, including Catholics, to be used for purposes against their moral beliefs,” part of the CBCP statement read.

The bishops also said the government should just help in promoting premarital chastity and fidelity to one’s spouse, as these are more effective in curbing the spread of the dreaded Aids.

“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,” the statement added.

The Health department started initiating the free condom drive last Valentine’s Day in Metro Manila due to the increasing cases of HIV-Aids in the country.

DOH Secretary Esperanza Cabral earlier said the drive was made as the dreaded disease continues its “silent” onslaught on the Filipinos.

In Western Visayas alone, there are already several cases of HIV-Aids and more victims of the disease are coming out in the open to seek help and understanding from the public, said DOH Center for Health Development-Western Visayas Regional Director Ariel Valencia.

He also said that the advertisements are a timely reminder to the public on the importance of responsible sexual behavior, and not meant to promote artificial contraception.

The CBCP, however, sees the condom drive as immoral.

In its website, the Catholic bishops instead urged the parents, professional associations, civil society, youth organizations, the government, and the mass media to be vigilant and take positive steps in guarding the total health and welfare of the people, and to form families in real loving and responsible relationships.

“Parents in particular should stand for their constitutional right to rear their children according to their values, and not allow ideological, commercial and political or international strategic interest to stand their way,” the CBCP statement said.

In response, the DOH said the condom distribution should not be construed as a signal that the government is advocating sexual licentiousness.

“The free condoms were just a tool of a creative campaign aimed at promoting awareness on HIV-Aids prevention at a most opportune time on Valentine’s Day,” said Valencia on Wednesday.

For Senator Mar Roxas, banning the condom advertisements might curtail the people’s freedom of speech. He instead advised the Catholic Church to urge its followers not to use condoms.

“I think it would be better if the CBCP would tell its followers not to use condoms because it is the people’s decision whether to use them or not,” Roxas said in vernacular.

He said it is important for the government to study first the limitation of the campaign, believing the freedom of speech will prevail.

Roxas acknowledged that it is CBCP’s right to call for the condom advertisement ban, but said imposing the prohibition would be difficult for the government.

Senator Benigno Aquino III, who is running for president this May elections under Liberal Party to which Roxas belongs, also favors the conduct of study on the condom drive before banning it.

“We need to study the campaign,” he said.

The free condoms distributed by the government since February to promote their use as effective deterrent against the HIV-Aids are supplied by DKT, a private merchandising firm. (FP/With LCP/Sunnex)