CATHOLIC bishops issued a pastoral letter Sunday that, without mentioning the candidate’s name, exhorted the faithful not to vote for presidential frontrunner Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
“The desire for change is understandable. Our people have suffered from incompetence and indifference,” said the letter signed by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. “But this cannot take the form of supporting a candidate whose speech and actions, whose plans and projects show scant regard for the rights of all, [and] who has openly declared indifference if not dislike and disregard for the Church, especially her moral teachings.”
The letter, read in the homily of all Sunday masses in all churches nationwide, was the strongest condemnation yet of Duterte, who has been linked to the extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects.
The pastoral letter came after the charismatic movement within the Catholic Church, the El Shaddai, began distributing sample ballots to its members at a prayer rally Saturday night that carried the name of Vice President Jejomar Binay for president, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for vice president, and Buhay for the party-list.
The CBCP pastoral letter read Sunday was directed mostly at voters.
“The nationally telecast debates as well as the publicized utterances and actuations of our candidates, particularly those who vie for the high office of President of the Republic, have given us all a glimpse of who they are, what they represent and the causes they champion—or reject.
“There is a fundamental difference between right and wrong, and not everything is fair game in politics. A choice for a candidate who takes positions that are not only politically precarious but worse, morally reprehensible, cannot and should not be made by the Catholic faithful...
“One cannot proclaim Christ as King and at the same time accept the governance of one whose thoughts, speech and demeanor are diametrically opposed to the demands of submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ,” the pastoral letter read.
The bishops said the Catholic Church has never asked any political candidate to seek its endorsement, but the Catholic Church has always demanded of Catholic voters that they cast their votes as an “act not only of citizenship but also as a public declaration of faith.”
“We ask this most earnestly of all of you, Catholic brothers and sisters, in the forthcoming election,” they said.
Addressing the presidential candidates, the bishops said in less than two weeks, the sovereign people would choose who should govern them.
“It is this that makes us a free people. We, your bishops of this country, therefore ask of you to allow each Filipino the free and untrammeled right to an informed choice. This means, among other things, that you cannot deceive or mislead the people by proffering them falsehoods, much less defraud the nation,” the bishops said.
The bishops also lamented the rancor that has marked the campaign period.
“Many wounds have been inflicted. This is true not only of candidates but also of their supporters. Even close friends have parted ways because of differences in political persuasion and in the choice of candidates to support,” they said, urging voters and candidates to pray.
They also said whoever wins honestly, takes his or her oath of office seriously, strives to heal the wounds of divisive politics and respects the rights of all would have the support of the CBCP.
At Saturday night’s El Shaddai prayer rally, the movement’s leader Mike Valarde did not endorse Binay or Marcos, but sample ballots distributed at the event showed the group’s preference.
It was an awkward moment for another presidential candidate, Senator Grace Poe, who was on stage with Binay, as the sample ballots with her rival’s name were being distributed.
Also on stage with the two presidential candidates were Marcos, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian and Buhay first nominee Joselito Atienza.
Before the distribution of the sample ballots, survey forms were distributed to the members asking them how they would vote for president and vice president.
But the survey form did not leave blank the space for party-list as Buhay party-list, the El Shaddai’s endorsed group, was already listed.
Velarde said other candidates were also invited to address the El Shaddai members during the “overnight prayer vigil and celebration” in Parañaque.
“We did not forget them. We invited them here. But it seems they forgot us. So if they forgot us, we can also forget them. How many are we? Three million, including those in their houses who are watching right now because we are being covered live by television,” Velarde said.
Only Binay and Poe were the candidates for president who showed up while Marcos was the only vice presidential candidate who delivered a speech.
Poe’s running mate, Senator Francis Escudero came but left right before the program started.
Binay was introduced by Velarde as the highest official in the presidential race, who was “one step away from the presidency.”
Thousands of the El Shaddai members gave Marcos a rousing welcome.
Aside from those in the Amvel compound, Velarde said about a million more witnessed the event as it was shown live on the government Channel 13, dwXI 1314 radio station and live internet streaming.
Marcos, in his address before the crowd, reiterated his advocacy for national unity as the single most important factor to move the country forward for future generations.
Poe agreed with Marcos and in her speech said the only way for the country to rise above poverty was to be united.
Marcos was met with a thundering applause following his speech and was mobbed by members when he left the compound at around 2 a.m.
Benita Carillo, 64, a native of Tarlac who has been a member of El Shaddai for many years, said she was supporting Marcos because of his own achievements as governor of Ilocos Norte and as a senator.
“He showed his independence, particularly during the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona and when they were discussing the bullet-planting scandal in the Senate,” she said in Filipino. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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