The president-elect of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has pledged to promote contraception, a month after downplaying reports that he would pursue an aggressive family planning programme.
Duterte reiterated his belief that three children should be the maximum number for families, and joked about amputating men’s genitalia.
“I will reinstall the program of family planning. Three’s enough,” Duterte said in a speech after a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Davao city hall. “I’ve also been colliding with the Church because it’s no longer realistic.”
He also alluded to his policies as mayor of Davao, when he energetically promoted birth control and paid men to undergo sterilisation.
A month ago, Duterte said: “I cannot force the people to follow. We are just suggesting that you are in good hands if you just limit the number of your children.”
But he had previously said he would “bring back family planning” and that he had been angered by hearing about a woman who had given birth to ten children. “I am a Christian, but I am a realist and we have to do something about our population,” he said.
Duterte, whose inauguration will take place on Thursday, has clashed with the country’s bishops over the death penalty – which Duterte wants to reintroduce – and over the new president’s style. Duterte has joked about wanting to rape an Australian missionary who was gang raped and killed by inmates in a 1989 Davao jail riot.
Duterte has also addressed those who carry out organised crime, saying: “If you resist, show violent resistance, my order to police (will be) to shoot to kill. Shoot to kill for organised crime. You heard that? Shoot to kill for every organised crime.”
He has also referred to the Pope and the Philippine bishops as “sons of whores”, and said the Church is “the most hypocritical institution”.
In 2012, Congress passed a law requiring public health centres to hand out contraceptives for free. It also made sex education compulsory in schools.
There are likely to be further clashes with the country’s bishops. Archbishop Ramón Cabrera Argüelles of Lipa has said he will volunteer to die in place of those condemned to the death penalty.
Mgr Oliver Mendoza, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Lingayen, whose archbishop is the president of the bishops’ conference, has said the Church would speak out against policies which contradicted Catholic teaching: “Because if we fail to do that, if we close our eyes, if we close our lips, we close our ears, what will be the role of the Church?”