Philippine law requires the integration of sex education in the schools' basic curriculum for children. (Photo by Joe Torres)
A plan by the Philippine government to integrate sex education in the country's basic education curriculum has set alarm bells ringing among the country's Catholic bishops.
Many say schools are an inappropriate place to teach sex education.
"This is a very delicate and sensitive topic," said Bishop Pedro Arigo of Puerto Princesa. "I doubt whether the classroom is the proper venue."
The prelate said "sexuality education is good and bad" and children should be educated on "how to distinguish malicious touches" with parents as an "integral part" of the program.
"How can it be done, in what context and environment, who are trained and qualified to do it, and how can it be done without malice," said Bishop Arigo.
He said sex education "cannot be done without the moral aspects."
"For Catholics it cannot be done without understanding the meaning of sexuality according to God's plan and design when He created us male and female," the prelate told ucanews.com.
He cited the country's reproductive health law that allows the use of artificial contraceptives as only being concerned about "safe and satisfying sex for fun and pleasure."
"God is completely excluded. It is sex without morality," said Bishop Arigo.
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila said the government should "thoroughly look" into the details of the program.
"It all depends what kind of materials they will use in sex education," said Bishop Pabillo who heads the Commission on the Laity of the bishops’ conference.
"The devil is in the details. Many intentions are good but what are the contents?" he said.
He called on the Education Department to come up with comprehensive implementation guidelines and seek suggestions from organizations like religious leaders.
Under the Philippines' "Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law," the state is required to provide an "age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education for adolescents."
Grade 1 pupils should be taught about "good touch" and "bad touch" to help children avoid becoming victims of sexual predators.
Rosalie Masilang, a supervising education program specialist at the Education Department, moved to allay the bishops’ fears, saying children are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation from within family circles.
"We have cases where family members molested children," said Masilang.
She said discussion on sexuality should not be about the sex act but on reproduction, physical care, and hygiene.
"Correct values and the norms of interpersonal relations to avoid pre-marital sex and teenage pregnancy" are also included.