IN THIS predominantly Roman Catholic country it certainly takes a lot of guts to go around flower shops on Valentine’s Day to give away free condoms even if the distribution is part of a program of the Department of Health. But Secretary Esperanza Cabral did it anyway and she’s now under fire from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines which is demanding her resignation.

Of course, the DOH and the CBCP are clearly approaching the issue from two different perspectives. The DOH does not delve on the motivations of Filipinos for engaging in sex as its responsibility is the health of the population so it does not impose moral standards nor pass judgment as it shouldn’t.

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On the other hand, imposing itself as a moral guardian, the CBCP does everything that the DOH does not—dictating what a person’s motivation should be each time he or she engages on sex (for procreation only), it imposes moral standards on acceptable sexual behavior, and it passes judgment—and condemns—all those that do not live by its standards.

This is a kind of situation that’s both amusing and dangerous. For while religious and spiritual aids are logically within the CBCP’s domain, education and social welfare are within the purview of the state. So when the CBCP imposes its own standards in matters involving education and social welfare, not only does it undermine the constitutional mandate on the inviolability of the separation of church and state—it actually seeks to substitute its will for the will of the state.

Incidentally, the free condom campaign of the DOH is in consonance with its mandate to promote health, to be more specific, to curtail the spread of the HIV virus while the bishops say the use of contraceptives promotes promiscuity and “weakens the moral fiber of the youth.”

Question: while the DOH has statistics to show the alarming rise in HIV cases, does the CBCP have enough date to show a correlation that access to condoms leads to promiscuity? Just asking.