Every nation has an un-elected aspect of its government that in recent years has become widely referred to as the “deep state”. This can include formal bodies such as intelligence agencies or central banks while in a broader sense the deep state can include powerful corporate interests, lobbying group and even the influence of vested foreign interests. But in The Philippines, there is not so much a deep state as there is a ‘deep church’. President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to diminish the meddling role that the Roman Catholic Church plays in the temporal politics of the nation – something that is in-line with the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.
Duterte has been intentionally “shaking the tree” regarding the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the country’s politics and society. The President has challenged taboos regarding the culture of guilt that the Church has instilled among ordinary people, while he has likewise welcomed people to find paths to the divine that do not necessarily go through the Church. Furthermore, Duterte has embraced a number of causes designed to break the hegemonic political influence of the neo-colonial Church in society, most recently by affirming his position in favour of legislation to legalise same-sex unions.
But when it comes to Roman Catholic Church dogma holding back the economic progress of the nation, population management is a key issue where Church doctrines are objectively in the way of the material progress of the Filipino people.
As Duterte seeks to elevate the economy of The Philippines from a post-colonial developing society to a modern industrial and hybrid post-industrial innovation powerhouse, he has expressed concerns that an overly large population has become a burden rather than an asset to development.
Indeed, while large populations can help to accelerate development in many circumstances, when a population’s uncontrollable growth becomes surplus to requirements, it becomes a major restraint on economic progress, hygiene, public health and puts immense pressure on outdated infrastructure.
The economic powerhouse that is modern China once had similar problems regarding a population that was simply too large to sustain and one that was actively holding back the progress of the Chinese nation. At the turn of the 1980s, China’s poverty rate was 88% where today it is 2%. By the end of 2020, China looks to fully eliminate poverty throughout the vast country. This was achieved through multiple factors and emergency population control measures was one such vital measure.
In 1979, China introduced the one child policy in order to curb unsustainable population growth. While agrarian economies require the use of more young workers than advanced industrial economies, China’s largely agrarian 1970s economy could simply not afford to support a rapidly ballooning population. Deng Xioping’s sift to an industrial economy further hammered home the need to get China’s out of control population into line with more manageable numbers.
Contrary to Sinophobic propaganda, China’s One Child Policy has been such a success that it became relaxed to a two-child policy in 2015 whilst trends even in this policy continue to relax in favour of those seeking slightly larger families. Today, China’s success is generated largely through an industrial sector that is rapidly evolving into a industrial-technical hybrid sector where innovation is becoming as important as production. The Chinese innovation revolution has been described by President Xi Jinping as a drive to replace “made in China” with “created in China”. This is further bolstered by the fact that as more factories become increasingly automated, there becomes a gradually decreased need for large numbers of factory workers.
While many western economies, including and especially the US economy does not have a safety net for those who lose employment due to automation and artificial intelligence, the market socialist economy of China is able to not only produce wealth but distribute it even more evenly in an age where mechanical rather than fleshy hands become those which generate production and consequently, also generate profit. Thus, the aforementioned methods which have an objective record of success that simply cannot be denied, can be applied in various forms to countries looking to follow China’s path from poverty to wealth and social harmony.
While the extreme size of China’s population required a one-child policy as means of solving an urgent problem, the problems the Philippines is facing could be largely controlled through voluntary measures which include the distribution and promotion of safe birth control methods that remain popular the world over. President Duterte has vowed to give people the options to manage their own destiny in this way, which in turn will help a country whose population has ballooned so much that even today, many Filipinos look for work opportunities abroad because at home there is more demand than supply in many instances, while wages also tend to remain higher in countries with more manageable populations.
Duterte has warned the Roman Catholic Church not to meddle in his push to give people the freedom to plan their lives according to their own means, needs and desires. The President stated,
“I do not like this, the creeping influence of faith is that sometimes run counter to what government believes to be good for the people, at least in this temporal life. We’re getting so many [people] in number. We can’t do something about it? We have breached the 100 million mark. It’s now 105 or 10 depending on your statistics. Where will all of these go?
Yesterday, I read somebody said that we have to implement the family planning. You know, truth is, the family planning, with due respect, I don’t want to pick a fight anyway. It has something to do with the objection of religions, not all. I would not mention the faith because again I would not want to quarrel with them. You can’t get anything from these stupid people, they are all talk”.
Like many other things surrounding the Roman Catholic Church in The Philippines, its policies on population management and personal freedoms regarding this issue are stuck in another time – they are out of touch with the aspirations of modern families and modern nations.
While Duterte has reiterated that he does not seek to provoke hostility over his plans to promote sensible birth control options, he nevertheless will not allow the Church to stand in the way of the temporal progress of the people. This is the real job of an elected political leader. Duterte has stood up to the “deep church” and in so doing, is setting out to restore the always neglected separation of church from state that the Constitution of The Republic of The Philippines demands.