BUKIDNON, Philippines – Catholic Bishop Raul Dael of the Diocese of Tandag in Surigao del Sur on Tuesday, March 8, decided to forego a small and more private meeting with presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo and her running mate Senator Francis Pangilinan but officiated a Mass instead for them at the San Nicolas de Tolentino Cathedral.
Bishops and ministers from different Christian denominations united and gathered at the cathedral in Tandag City at the start of Robredo and Pangilinan’s two-day campaign sortie in Caraga region.
Dael made it clear his decision to officiate the Mass was not an endorsement of the candidates.
He told the vice president and the senator that not everyone under the Tandag Catholic diocese was “pink,” and many others like him have yet to make up their minds about who to vote for.
But some matters were non-negotiable, according to the bishop.
“We are non-partisan, but we can never be neutral when it comes to lies and truth. We do welcome the other candidates as this is part of our discernment process,” he said.
The Mass gathered in one cathedral priests, nuns, lay people, and their counterparts from the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), and Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI).
UCCP Bishop Modesto Villasanta and pastors under him, and the local IFI clergy came in full force.
Dael said church leaders see a new generation of voters who will listen to platforms of governance of candidates and gather data to be able to arrive at well-informed decisions.
“We’re starting now the new culture of politics in which choosing candidates would no longer be based on popularity or money but platforms guaranteed by established genuine public service, well-founded competence, and a heart with much compassion for the poor,” he said.
Tandag was the second stop of the Robredo-Pangilinan ticket after the group briefly met with their supporters in a jam-packed gymnasium in Bislig City, also in Surigao del Sur.
The group then proceeded to Tandag City where Bishop Dael turned down a request for a small meeting and officiated a mid-day Mass attended by more people instead.
“I know you’re very tired, and we are inviting you to rest in God, to rest in the prayers of our people,” Dael told the candidates. “This time, we forgo (with the meeting) because I want you to be available to the people,” Dael said. – Rappler.com
Grace Cantal-Albasin is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.