Episode 29: Laziness and the RH Law Debate – A Response to Dr. Quirino Sugon, Jr.

Today, I’m going to write a response to Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. (assuming that’s his real name), who blogs on http://monkshobbit.blogspot.com/ and tweets at https://twitter.com/MonksHobbit. He’s a fairly dyed-in-the-wool anti-RH Law, and for some days now our respective groups – him on the anti, me on the pro – have been going back and forth on Twitter, exchanging little factoids here and there about the RH Law. (Or at least that’s what we pros are doing, the antis seem to adore their meme pics and borderline libelous <albeit amusing> claims about us pros worshipping sex and contraceptives as gods. For more laughs, go to http://www.twitter.com and search #RHLaw. You may need to register and/or log in. You may also need some Kleenex, nosebleeds have been known to occur while reading that thread.)

One link he shared as “proof” that RH Law advocate Beth Angsioco was “lying” about the RH Law was a link to his own blog site (another thing the antis seem to love to do – quoting themselves), where he “analyzes” some of the data Ms. Angsioco presents in her recent article. Note my generous use of quotation marks to indicate that what Dr. Sugon sets out to do isn’t necessarily what he actually accomplishes.

First, he fixates on a phrase, “85 percent of respondents have gotten pregnant 1,933 times.” He claims it is “deceiving,” because it makes it “appear that each respondent got pregnant 1,933 times, which is a large number. ” He then proceeds to do some lengthy number crunching that takes up most of the paragraph, to arrive at the conclusion that “the average number of pregnancies per woman in this group is 3.66 pregnancies.”

The thing is, all of that was unnecessary. Just two paragraphs prior, Ms. Angsioco already states that:

At the time of the survey, the average number of births of those who have given birth was 3.4 per respondent, already higher than their desired number of children. Since they are WRAs, the present average is now higher.

So, thanks, Doc, for finding out that the actual average number of births per respondent is higher than what was reported by the DSWP.

In relation to this, I find it curious that none of the other subsequent data, which helps put the 1,933 figure in its proper context, was even discussed:

 More than 42 percent of these pregnancies are those of respondents who got pregnant 4-8 times while 13 women got pregnant 9-14 times. 83 percent have already given birth. 61 percent of them 1-3 times while the rest, 4-14 times.

~ ~ ~

Second, Dr. Sugon goes to great lengths to attempt to show that the statement “Respondents know of 422 cases of these complications and 298 incidences of maternal mortality” is a case of unique incidents counted multiple times.

The fundamental problem with this portion of his analysis is that it starts with these words:

What could have happened is…

In other words, he openly admits that the entire analysis that follows is just SPECULATION. Yet at the end of the paragraph, he says

This is quintuplication of data.

From speculation to fact, in 83 words or less. And not only that, he *repeats* this same flawed process with another data quote.

There is a plain and easy way to have gotten around this problem of relying on speculation to try to argue data manipulation, but before I get into that…

~ ~ ~

Third, while I agree that some particulars would have helped push Ms. Angsioco’s point further, the lack of particularity in and of itself does not invalidate data, nor does it invalidate Ms. Angsioco’s position. What it *does* is call for clarification and further discussion.

Yet Dr. Sugon insists that such lack of precision in Ms. Angsioco’s article is meant to ” intentionally wish to deceive in order to push a particular agenda. ”

As with the second point, there is a plain and easy way to address this lapse in the article: request for  the raw data of the DSWP Payatas study. This way, not only can we see the data for ourselves, bu we can even examine the design of the study, the questions asked for the surveys, and test the reliability of both the questions and the responses.

Dr. Sugon never does this.

And there lies the defect in his position. Rather than go for the best available means to refute Ms. Angsioco’s postion – which is a direct examination of the DSWP study itself – Dr. Sugon is content to rely on a pseudo-intellectual exercise of nitpicking, obfuscating and misdirection. Because for all of his talk about how Ms. Angsioco is attempting to mislead people to push her “agenda,” it should now be clear who is trying to mislead to push an agenda.

~ ~ ~

As an aside, and perhaps also to show that Dr. Sugon is nothing if not consistent, he also claimed some time ago that abortion is in the RH Law, by applying what appears to be either language theory and/or mathematical principles to statutory construction. Never mind that the first rule of statutory construction is applying the “plain language” meaning of a phrase when it is clear and unambiguous, which is what “The elements of reproductive health care include the…(3) proscription of abortion and management of abortion complications” simply is. It is clear, it is unambiguous.

Even assuming, for the sake of argument and in suspension of disbelief, that the provision is ambiguous, the rational thing to do would be to look up a book on statutory construction to help us in trying to interpret the text of the law – and not apply “set theoretic language of union and curly braces,” much less “algebraic or functional translation.”

All told, it feels like Dr. Sugon is very comfortable talking about Catholic morality and some levels of mathematics, but simply can’t be bothered to go outside his comfort zones and deal with topics within their contexts – the DSWP study in dealing with points raised by Ms. Angsioco in her article on the one hand, and principles of statutory construction in dealing with the interpretation of textual provisions of the RH Law on the other.

It is laziness. And it has no place in what ought to be a meaningful discussion of rights, duties, and personal convictions.

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