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A nation of illegitimate children

RENE BERNAL-UNSPLASH

If ever there is a crisis the Philippines must urgently confront, utterly paramount is the deteriorating state of our families and children.

From the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, we see that in 2010, 765,074 illegitimate babies were born. One year later, in 2011 — practically the first full year of the Noynoy Aquino presidency — that number grew by 1.8%, making it nearly half of the babies born that year being illegitimate (44.6% or 778,680). By the end of Noynoy’s presidency, that number had risen to 49.2% or 851,088 babies born to unwed mothers.

Afterwards, the trend seemingly solidified: in 2018, more than half (54.3%) of Philippine births were to unwed mothers. By 2020, that rose to 57% or 870,820 illegitimate babies. Notably, indications are that more males are born illegitimate than females.

Put that within the context that teenage pregnancy in this country rose by 70% in the 10-year period between 1999 to 2009. The 2010 figures show there were 206,574 teen pregnancies, with more than half involving girls below 14 years of age. The 2013 data reveals that the Philippines had the third highest number of teen pregnancies in Southeast Asia, among the highest in the ASEAN region, and the only country where such numbers were increasing. Recent numbers aren’t that comforting: teenage pregnancies remain at a high: 62,510 in 2019 to 56,428 in 2020 (according to the PSA). Set within the Southeast Asian region, with a 2018 average adolescent birth rate of 37.2 for every 1,000 women aged between 15 and 19, the Philippines was at a high 57 (31 by 2020). And note that the Commission on Population and Development found that births by girls 14 years old and below increased by 7% in 2019 compared to the previous year, which also represents a nearly 300% rise from 2000.

Yet the state of marriages — and thus the condition of children within those marriages — is equally disturbing: 20% of marriages in the Philippines will be broken, with 82% of such broken marriages involving children. A World Health Organization study finds that there are 15 million solo parents in the Philippines, with 95% (or more than 14 million) of whom are women. Finally, with the steady decline in marriages in the country comes, ironically, a continual increase in the number of annulments. Incidentally, one study (citing data from the Solicitor General) showed that the majority of annulment cases “were filed by wives (61%), of whom 91% were 30 years old or younger.”

This is a devastating situation.

“We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it,” said former US President Barack Obama, then a senator, of the state of Black children in a speech at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago in June 2008 (https://politi.co/3TI8MS4).

And indeed: children deprived of married parents tend to perform worse in school, suffer more from depression, engage in more harmful activities, are more vulnerable to doing drugs or attempting suicide, engage in promiscuity leading to teenage pregnancy, and are less productive as adults. Even today’s lockdown data finds American children in stable families faring better psychologically and emotionally during the pandemic. (“Stable Families Are Helping Protect Kids From Lockdown-Induced Depression And Suicide,” Glenn Stanton, Feb. 18, 2021, https://bit.ly/StableFamilies).

In “Jobs, Expansion, and Development” (Paqueo, Orbeta, Lanzona, and Dulay, NEDA PIDS, 2013) found the “positive correlation of open unemployment with income and education.” More tellingly, they spoke of the fact that “income households headed by high school graduates is more than double that of households with only elementary education.” In short, “the rate of return to investment in education is relatively high.” The point is that the longer you stay in school, the higher your income and the greater the productivity, which then leads to overall national economic gain. But how can kids stay in school longer if they keep getting pregnant before they even graduate from college or reach marriageable age?

One unspoken impact of single mother homes: The US is notorious for school shootings. But what mainstream media (mostly liberal) refuse to report is that most, if not all of the shooters were bereft of fathers, “whether due to divorce, death, or imprisonment” as Susan Goldberg points out (“When Will We Have the Guts to Link Fatherlessness to School Shootings?,” February 2018, https://bit.ly/Fatherlessness_Shooting).

Then there’s this: “72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers; the same for 60% of all rapists. Seventy percent of juveniles in state institutions grew up in single- or no-parent situations. The number of single-parent households is a good predictor of violent crime in a community, while poverty rate is not.” (Terry Brennan, Co-Founder, Leading Women for Shared Parenting, https://bit.ly/Fatherlessness_Republicans).

Gen Z, more than any other generation, are raised in single mother homes (see Pew study). So should we be surprised that they are the most messed up as well?:

“Forty-two percent of [adult Gen Zs report] that they have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.” Of that, “57% of Gen Z adults struggling with their mental health reported taking medication to alleviate their condition and paying an average of $44 monthly. The most frequently cited conditions were anxiety and depression which were reported by 90% and 78% of respondents, respectively. Other conditions reported include: ADHD, 27%, PTSD, 20%, OCD, 17%, eating disorder 14%, and insomnia 12%. Less than 10% reported more diagnoses of bipolar disorder, addiction and substance abuse, and borderline personality disorder.” (“42% of Gen Z have diagnosed mental health condition, majority worried about future: study,” Leonardo Blair, Christian Post, November 2022, https://bit.ly/GenZ_MentalHealth; citing “State of Gen Z Mental Health 2022,” https://bit.ly/GenZ_MentalHealthState).

And yet, despite all the obvious and observable negative consequences of the foregoing — increasing broken families, more dysfunctional relationships, more depressed and mentally unhealthy people, lesser productivity, less social stability — our bizarre response is to encourage single parenthood and the break-up of married couples with children. Hence, a “Family” Code that removed distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate children, and gave State recognition and protection to cohabiting unmarried couples, a tax system that removed specific benefits for families with dependents, laws that provide single mothers privileges (some not available to married mothers), including leaves and taxpayer funded housing, education, and health benefits. Add a law that allots tax money for the purpose of giving out free contraceptives, plus political or legislative initiatives to decriminalize abortion, recognize same sex marriage and divorce, plus pro-homosexuality legislation such as the SOGI bills.

All sheer insanity.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. In this case, it is paved, lightened, painted, and furnished with it.

What we should be doing is putting our energies into prioritizing character development in schools, encourage churches and civic organizations regarding youth development, mandate ROTC and compulsory military service, emphasize team sports (especially for the boys), cultivate a culture of courtship and proper understanding of sexuality, privileges for married couples and stable families, benefits to working married mothers.

Actually, anything that supports the traditional marriage and family is far better than the rut we’re determined to slouch towards to.

Jemy Gatdula is a senior fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence

www.facebook.com/jigatdula/

Twitter @jemygatdula

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