Filipino workers verifying ballot papers for the May 9 election. Filipino workers verifying ballot papers for the May 9 election.  (AFP or licensors)

Philippine election: Bishops urge voters to keep at heart the common good

In a pastoral letter read on Sunday in churches across the nation, the bishops called on voters to elect candidates who will improve people’s lives, especially the poor and the vulnerable.

By Robin Gomes

As the election campaign heats up in the Philippines for the election in May, the country’s Catholic bishops are calling on the people to use their vote to protect their freedom and ensure the common good.  “We must improve the lives of our people, especially the poor and the vulnerable. This is the primary responsibility of a public servant,” said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, in a pastoral letter that was read at Sunday Masses across the nation on March 27. 

“We need competent leaders and lawmakers with sincere intentions to serve the welfare of our communities, i.e., municipalities, cities, provinces and the whole country,” said the pastoral letter entitled, “Be Concerned about the Welfare of Others”, signed by CBCP president Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan.

People’s lives and future

The May 9 election will give the country a new president, vice president, 12 senators, and a new term for local officials.  President Rodrigo Duterte, whose 6-year term ends in June, cannot stand for re-election, as the constitution mandates a single presidential term.

The bishops pointed out that the election is of great importance as the people will choose candidates to whom they will entrust both their lives and future.

“Let us be vigilant and call out those who use violence, money and power, or other forms of cheating; those who spread lies and hatred; those who manipulate people for their own personal interest; and those who take advantage of the weak and the vulnerable.”

Frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late dictator who ruled the Philippines for two decades before his 1986 overthrow, repeated his message of fostering unity to overcome the economic and pandemic crises.  Joining him as his running mate is Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, and the favourite to win the vice presidency, which has a separate election. Coming next is Vice President and opposition leader, Leni Robredo, who narrowly beat Marcos in the 2016 vice presidential contest but trails him in polls for the top job. She promised her supporters better healthcare and an honest and caring government.

Separation of Church and State

There have been accusations from certain quarters that some members of the clergy have been meddling in politics, contrary to the principle of Church-State separation.  In response, the CBCP said there is no law that prohibits any church or religion to speak about and engage in politics.  “In truth, the principle of Separation of Church and State respects the free exercise of religion. And any church, being part of the society, has the right and the responsibility to speak out, especially on the moral aspect of politics and governance.”

“Thus, when the good, the truth, life and the welfare of all are at stake, be assured that we shall raise our voice,” they said, pledging they will “always be on the side of the truth, of the good and of justice, as they strive to work for unity and peace”. “The Church and the State serve one and the same people. The Church, however, cannot be indifferent towards the truth, good and justice.”

Eye on the common good

The bishops put voters “on guard against the suspicious and dubious,” warning against those who take advantage of the poverty and vulnerability of the Filipinos “to acquire votes … for their own personal interest”. They said the election is not just for voters and candidates but concerns the common good which is everyone’s responsibility.  “When we sell our vote,” they said, “we lose our voice and our decision. It is like giving up our freedom and our future.”

“We must improve the lives of our people, especially the poor and the vulnerable. This is the primary responsibility of a public servant.”

Coming down to issues at stake, the Filipino bishops urged voters to seek those candidates who prioritize the life and dignity of the human person; protect the family, community, and encourage participation; defend rights and fulfil their responsibilities; demonstrate preferential option for the poor and vulnerable; uphold the dignity of work and the rights of workers; work for solidarity; and care for God's Creation.   “Let us remember: Our engagement and concern for others do not end with the election, the bishops said.

28 March 2022, 14:11