Bishops unite, act to block Duterte!
IN A PASTORAL letter last Sunday that did not mention him by name, Catholic bishops appeared to have counseled their flock – estimated at 80 million — not to vote for such controversial characters as Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is running for president in the May 9 elections.
Filipino Catholics do not always follow their pastors, but the unprecedented appeal on moral grounds signed by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, could dent Duterte’s chances.
The 1,000-word pastoral letter that reiterated the Church’s teachings on politics and morality did not endorse, or seem to, any of Duterte’s rivals who are also Catholics – Jojo Binay, Grace Poe, Miriam Santiago and Mar Roxas (in alphabetical order).
Also being awaited this week is the endorsement, if any, of such religious groups as the Iglesia ni Cristo and the El Shaddai, both of which have followers running into millions. El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde may announce today his congregation’s choice.
Yesterday the President of the Republic of the Philippines went to INC head Eduardo Manalo – instead of the other way around – presumably to talk politics amid rumors that the Iglesia was set to endorse Sen. Bongbong Marcos for vice president.
Duterte is openly and massively being supported by televangelist Apollo Quiboloy, founder of the Davao-based The Kingdom of Jesus Christ sect, who threatens revolution if his bet, he said, is cheated. He has lent the mayor his private plane and helicopter for his campaign.
The bishops’ move was apparently triggered by speculation that Duterte, because of or in spite of his outrageous utterances and antics, has gained enough following to win the presidency. It seems the bishops want to avert what to them could be a national disaster.
Explaining its offer of “a hand to unite and our prayers to the Lord to heal our land and people divided by politics,” the CBCP cited Catholic catechism which teaches:
“It is a part of the Church’s mission ‘to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. The means, the only means, she may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances.’”
■ Guide given on whom not to vote for
THE LETTER said in part: “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, 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 and those who take their allegiance to Christ and his Kingship seriously.
“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 desire for change is understandable. Our people have suffered from incompetence and indifference. 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, who has openly declared indifference if not dislike and disregard for the Church specially her moral teachings.
“The Catholic Church has never asked any political candidate to seek its endorsement, but the 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 coming election.
“We commend the various initiatives of our Catholic laity and other youth associations to come together and pray for guidance in choosing the right leaders.”
These words remind us of the late Fr. John P. Delaney, SJ, who urged members of the UP Student Catholic Action to be active in campus politics then dominated by Greek-letter groups. Religion, he said, does not stop at the church doors but must permeate all aspects of life.
The CBCP also appealed to the candidates: “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.”
■ Peace, reconciliation, healing after polls
The CBCP capped its message: “When the elections shall have been concluded and winners proclaimed in accordance with law, we beg you all, in the name of Jesus Christ, to be instruments of peace, reconciliation and healing.
“Let those who prevail rise in nobility above the hurtful words that may have been uttered by opponents, and draw them rather into a government of unity — but unity that firmly rests neither on expediency nor compromise, but on truth and justice.
“We ask all who shall be sworn in to remember that when they take the oath that the law requires of them, they call on God as their witness — and even if they may not expressly do so, they swear in the sight of God’s People. Every public official swears to uphold and to defend the Constitution and to do justice to every man and woman.
“Not whim then, nor arbitrariness, not vendetta nor revenge, but the rights of God’s people enshrined in the Constitution and their demand for justice, unity, progress and peace to which every law must respond!”