Philippine Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has come under fire recently from the Roman Catholic Church for having government health workers hand out roses and condoms on Valentine’s Day.
Bishops issued angry statements slamming the Valentine’s Day distribution as immoral and called for the resignation of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, who ordered the campaign. One archbishop said that Cabral already “has one foot in hell.”
The bishops called for a ban on condom advertisements last week.
“The condom business is a multimillion dollar industry that heavily targets the adolescent market at the expense of morality and family life,” said Bishop Nereo Odchimar, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. He called fidelity and premarital chastity “the only effective way to curb the spread of AIDS.”
Cabral, the health secretary, said she doesn’t take the church’s word lightly. “They are very powerful and they can sometimes be vicious,” she said.
But the Harvard-trained cardiologist, who was reshuffled to the Health Department from the Social Welfare Department in January, shrugged off the flak as something that comes with the territory.
“I feel it is just a job that I have to do because as the secretary of health I know that it is going to be very difficult for our country if we let … (AIDS) become an epidemic,” she told The Associated Press.
The church is also opposed to a reproductive health bill introduced in 2008 which would permit the distribution of contraceptives in government hospitals and allow public schools to teach sex education classes. This bill has yet to leave the House of Representatives.