On Saturday, December 17, the Department of Education (DepEd) clarified it has not yet allowed the Department of Health (DOH) to proceed with their plan of distributing condoms in schools next year.
It may be recalled that on December 1, which is also World AIDS Day, the DOH announced its plan to roll out its safe sex campaign among junior and senior high schoolers in 2017 to curb the rising number of cases of HIV/AIDS among the youth. The DOH emphasized that counseling would be provided and that condoms would be distributed.
In an interview on Unang Balita, DOH chief Dr. Paulyn Ubial explained, "The condoms will not be openly distributed. But [the safe sex campaign] will be a venue to discuss [with] the young people how to prevent HIV/AIDS."
Despite this, Fr. Jerome Secillano, the executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) public affairs committee, expressed his objection to the DOH's safe sex campaign. He remarked, "Distributing condoms will only condone sexual activity among students."
Echoing Secillano's sentiments, Eleazardo Kasilag, the president of the Federation of Associations of Private Schools and Administrators (FAPSA), said that the DOH's move "implied that most of the new HIV/AIDS cases came from schools" and that it might just "make schoolchildren curious about sex."
The issue has raged on and, naturally, the DepEd is also involved.
"DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones made the clarification at the University of St. La Salle Coliseum in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, where she served as speaker during the graduation rites of 1,473 public school teachers who completed their master's and doctorate degrees under the Project-Free Paglaum Program of DepED and the local government," reports Meneil Lopez on ABS-CBN News Online.
Briones stressed that "while the distribution of contraceptives could address the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the high rate of pregnancy among the youth, health and education officials must first discuss the plan's implications on women sensitivity, religion, and culture."
"We still have to sit down [and talk] about the mechanics, so we can say whether we agree or we don't agree," she said.