WITH only 128 days before the May 9 elections, independent presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe and vice presidential bet Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos called on their fellow candidates to abandon dirty politics and start to elevate the political discourse in the country.
The two candidates made the appeal as three Catholic bishops renewed the call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for Filipino voters to free themselves from the past and stop voting for traditional politicians.
“We’re all coming into 2016 with a clean slate. We can use this chance to elevate the level of discourse in the campaign. I think everyone will agree that Filipinos deserve no less from us,” Poe said.
Poe recalled that she, Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas and opposition bet Vice President Jejomar Binay all agreed to keep the campaign dignified when they gathered for a prayer service with Manila Archbishop Luis Cardinal Tagle in September.
“I remember how Cardinal Tagle reminded us that being a leader means being of service, and that we should never forget that in all things, the leader should be the first to feel what the people are going through,” Poe said.
In that September meeting, Tagle called on Filipino politicians to “raise the bar” in political campaigning while CBCP president and Dagupan-Lingayen Archbishop Socrates Villegas warned that a candidate who resorts to dirty politics “must be suspect.”
“He may have nothing positive to offer, and he debases the level of political discourse by calling attention to the shortcomings of his rivals and competitors, rather than on the programs and projects he or she might have,” Villegas said.
Poe said the ultimate goal of all candidates should be to uplift the lives of Filipinos and not their personal ambitions.
“We all want the same thing for the country, which is ultimately, to uplift the lives of our fellow Filipinos. Let us not make this about personal ambitions because if we do, the tendency is to employ all means, even dirty tactics, to eliminate those who stand in the way,” Poe said.
Marcos made the same appeal in a separate statement and urged candidates to make permanent the “ceasefire” from mud-slinging and character assassination that candidates observed during the Christmas season.
“Well, we have done it,” Marcos said. “I can’t see any reason why it could not be done during the entire campaign period.”
“The people are waiting to hear solutions to the lingering problems of the country and it should be given to them. It would be an insult to their intelligence if this is sidelined by non-sense quarrels,” Marcos added.
Marcos urged a permanent end to trash-talk and encouraged candidates to focus on issues and express to the people their solutions to the problems of the country.
“Now and during the campaign period, we candidates should present to the electorate discourses, speeches, and statements that are issue-based and in a dignified and decent manner,” Marcos said.
The two politicians made the appeal as three bishops reiterated the CBCP appeal for voters to change Philippine politics and ignore traditional politics and its practitioners.
“Vote candidates who are God fearing, nationalistic, humane, pro-life, just, and care for the environment,” said Marbel, Cotabato Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, adding that Filipinos should vote for a leader who can unite the whole nation and can instill change.
Balanga, Bataan Bishop Ruperto Santos hoped the coming election will be different this year.
“Wishing and praying that our election will no longer be on the evil basis of personal greed, terrorism of guns and goons, and bribery of gold. But our election will be the good of the environment and of the community. It will be at service of the country and to manifest God’s glory,” Santos said.
But Lipa Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles urged all Filipino Catholic voters not to vote for corrupt politicians, but expressed frustration that voters may not find a candidate who has “morality, loves God, the country and the environment.”
“May all realize we cannot continue putting the future of our nation in the hands of corrupt people,” he said.
The CBCP had earlier warned against politicians using government resources in their electoral campaigns.
Villegas also cautioned against “subtler forms of coercion and intimidation” to promote a particular candidate.
“It is God’s will to provide his people with shepherds after His merciful heart,” Villegas said.
The appeal was among the 10-point guideline for Catholic voters deriving from the moral teachings of the Church.
Still refusing to endorse any particular candidates, the bishops, however, urged the faithful to reject political aspirants who are opposed to the Church’s stand on family and life issues.
They said that “in good conscience,” a Catholic voter cannot support a candidate who supports abortion, euthanasia, the return of the death penalty, divorce, and same-sex union.
“The Catholic voter must evaluate candidates according to the model of Christ, who came to serve, not to be served,” stressed the prelate.
While realizing that there are no perfect candidates, he said, there is a difference between one who has been wrong in the past and wiling to amend his ways, and one who exhibits “stubbornness and obstinacy.”
The bishops’ collegial body also warned voters against candidates whose ideology are geared towards making the Philippines a secular state “that has no respect for religion in its public life.”
“A Catholic cannot support a candidate who vows to wipe out religion from public life,” said Villegas.
The CBCP head also called on Catholic voters not to close their doors to candidates who have different religious beliefs, saying there are worthy candidates from other religions.
“Their qualifications and aspirations must be given serious heed by our Catholic voters, their truly helpful plans and visions must be supported,” he said.
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