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Catholic ‘White Vote’ up

Movement to junk pro-RH candidates Catholic groups are trying to muster millions of votes for the senatorial candidates who oppose the contraceptives law that Congress passed last year. Catholic leader Mike Velarde said Monday his El Shaddai group and dozens of other lay organizations had formed the “White Vote Movement” to campaign for pro-Church candidates in the May 13 midterm elections.
Catholic vote. El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde announces the launching of the Catholic White Vote Movement in Parañaque City. Ey Acasio
He said the movement would prove the Catholic Church remained a force to reckon with in Asia’s largest Catholic nation. Congress passed the Reproductive Health Law  providing state funding for contraceptives despite the Catholic Church’s staunch opposition. Several lawmakers who voted for and against the law are vying for 12 of 24 Senate seats in next month’s balloting. The law is being challenged in court and has not taken effect. Velarde announced his new movement even as Malacañang and pro-RH Law Reps. Simeon Datumanong, Edcel Lagman and Rodolfo Albano downplayed it. “We leave it up to the voters on May 13 whether or not they will assess their candidates based on a singular issue....” deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said. “We leave it up to the political analysts to determine whether there is such a thing as a Catholic vote.” Datumanong said this was the first time that the Catholic groups had united to deliver the so-called Catholic vote, but such a thing still had to be proven. Lagman, the main proponent of the Reproductive Health Bill, said the RH supporters and advocates running for public office should not fear any backlash from the Catholic Church because the Catholic vote had “no empirical basis.” Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo said the Church should endorse not candidates but criteria to guide the faithful. Rep. Rodolfo Albano similarly denied the existence of a Catholic vote but Rep. Danilo Suarez, an anti-RH legislator, was supportive of it. “It remains to be seen if there is such a thing as a Catholic vote,” Suarez said, but added the new movement would help the anti-RH candidates win. El Shaddai has 7 million members, and on Monday it said it will endorse at least 10 senatorial candidates based on their stand on controversial issues, and that it will announce those candidates next week. A source said Velarde will endorse six from the opposition United Nationalist Alliance and three independent candidates. He said the senatorial bets who supported the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill into law would definitely not be included in the list. Earlier, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines urged the faithful to use the “Catholic vote” to choose the pro-life candidates in the May 2013 senatorial and local elections. Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, former vice chairman of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said the Filipinos should exercise their religious beliefs in rejecting the candidates who are not following the Church’s teachings. “If there is a candidate who does not follow Church teachings, we should reject this candidate. We must use the Catholic vote and show them what the real Catholic is,” Arguelles said. But the CBCP refused to comment  on the White Vote Coalition  composed of the Council of the Laity of the Philippines,  El Shaddai, Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life, Catholic Women’s League, Focolare Movement, and Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon. ”Whether or not these endorsements will have any impact on the outcome of the elections this May remains to be seen,” Arguelles said. With Maricel V. Cruz, The AP and Joyce Pangco Pañares
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