In the ongoing conversation about the RH bill, we have repeatedly heard the views of adults both pro-choice and pro-life. We have also heard from many pro-RH youth who are convinced that the RH bill is the answer to the Philippine’s problems. What we have not heard as much are the voices of our youth who have an opposing view. They are definitely out there, and Mark Robert Baldo is one of them.
Mark is the spokesperson for Youth United for the Philippines (YUP!) and a member of the UP Political Society. He just graduated Magna Cum Laude yesterday and like most graduates, is concerned not only about his own future, but that of his country’s. And he doesn’t think that the RH bill meets the needs of our country’s youth. “The RH Bill will dim that brighter future. In YUP! we anchor our vision for the youth on virtues. The RH Bill does not promote virtue but rather offers a technique precisely to get around not being able to exercise virtues. Where the youth have to exercise temperance toward sex, the RH Bill implicitly provides a way for the youth to neglect the practice of that virtue but supposedly get away with the consequences. Emphasis on ‘supposedly,’ for there are more dire consequences than teenage pregnancy which escape our often narrow purview.”
How refreshing to hear someone so young talk about virtue! At the tender age of 20, Mark has seen and experienced and studied enough to be convinced that supporting the RH legislation is not necessarily an indication of a young person’s ability to think for himself and to carve his future. “It is not categorical that if I support the RH bill I am intelligent or if I do not support it I am stupid, and vice versa. But I can say that I sense a certain non-thinking among the youth I have encountered. By default, by pressure, by supposedly ‘common sense,’ they think the RH Bill is worthy of support. Those I have mentioned are generally un-meditated, non-rational components in choosing a stand. They do not involve, as you say, thinking for one’s self. Indeed, in the academic life, when we take something to be given or common sense, that is usually a signal that we may be gravely mistaken and just going with the flow.”
Indeed, while there have been intelligent-sounding arguments in support of the bill, the majority of young people who support it don’t seem to have thought things out in terms of long-term effects and consequences. More often it is apparent that they are merely engaged in group-think. This is often evident when visiting online sites such as the I Support the RH bill page on Facebook, or perusing various teens’ blogs. When questioned about their reasons for supporting the bill, the responses are often indicative of a tendency towards selfishness, and a devil-may-care attitude about what it means to be a responsible young person today. As Mark Baldo knows, it takes more than just speaking out. And it takes more than group-think to effect lasting, positive changes in a country where some are prone to wanting the easy way out.
What’s needed more than ever is for young people like those at YUP! to let themselves be heard and educate their fellow youth. “For my part, and I think I am speaking on behalf of YUP!, we do not give premium on numbers. Our passion is to educate. Even if those youth groups really are big in numbers, that does not say anything about the issue at all.”
Mark and YUP! certainly have their work cut out for them, but it looks like they are definitely up to the task.