Probing report

CHEERS TO the Philippine Daily Inquirer for focusing on an important issue in the policy debate on reproductive health (RH): Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III’s use of fringe science in his speeches defending his anti-RH bill position.

“(Sotto’s) use without citation of a blog by Sarah Pope on the safety of pills has landed him in hot water, with allegations of plagiarism. But more important than the plagiarism issue is the senator’s inadvertent promotion of ‘fringe science’ over mainstream science in this important policy debate on (RH),” read an article by medical experts and health economists Oscar Picazo, Marilen Dañguilan, Rouselle Lavado, and Valerie Ulep published in the Inquirer’s “In the Know” section. (“Sotto and RH bill”, Sept. 9)

The writers argued that Sotto and his staff did not use globally and locally reputable mainstream scientific sources for his “turno en contra” speeches defending his position. “The question is: Why were none of the above mainstream sources ever consulted? Ranged against these formidable sources of scientific studies, why did Sotto and his staff cite a blog, the findings of which were never subjected to rigorous peer review as is done in scientific journals?” The problem, they wrote, was that the argument in the blog “could be a product of fringe science”. The article went on to describe fringe science and countered Sotto’s points in his speeches with scientific findings.

“The turno en contra episode sets a dangerous precedent for fringe science to become a major influence on public policy,” they wrote. “This unfortunate episode highlights once again the poor state of science education, research and advocacy in the Philippines. Science funding is paltry and very few young Filipinos seem to want to go into science. The broadcast media devote so little time to science, and newspapers and magazines carry very few science-related articles.”