Catholic, Evangelical groups to back 2016 bets

Paterno Esmaquel II
Catholic, Evangelical groups to back 2016 bets
‘This is the first time in history that you have Catholics, the Protestants, the Evangelicals, coming together on a united front,’ one of the members says

MANILA, Philippines – The biggest names in the Philippines’ Catholic and Evangelical churches joined forces on Tuesday, September 15, to launch a process to endorse candidates for the country’s elections in 2016.   

Coming from various Christian groups, members of the Pilipino Movement for Transformational Leadership (PMTL) will finalize a line-up of presidential, vice-presidential, and senatorial candidates by October 15.

Through a “people’s primary,” PMTL members will screen candidates then choose those to elect in 2016.  

They will use a set of criteria called the Gabay-Kristo (Christ-Guide), which is based on Christian values. 

In a news conference, PMTL member Spanky Meer dispelled perceptions that the group’s initiative is like past ones, where church groups endorsed candidates who eventually lost. 

Previously, for example, the political party Ang Kapatiran fielded presidential and senatorial candidates based on Catholic principles. All of them lost.

Catholic and Evangelical groups also don’t usually practice bloc voting, unlike the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), a Christian church founded in the Philippines that is known for its influence in politics.

Still, Meer stressed this is not like before, because there is no “before” to speak of.

Meer, who comes from the Catholic group “Ligaya ng Panginoon” (Joy of the Lord), told reporters: “This is the first time in history that you have Catholics, the Protestants, the Evangelicals, coming together on a united front.”

The PMTL was launched on Tuesday at the Kalayaan Hall of Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City. 

Kalayaan Hall was where the late Corazon Aquino took her oath as president after the People Power Revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. 

It was also where Mrs Aquino’s son, incumbent Philippine leader Benigno Aquino III, announced in September 2009 that he will run for president.

‘Golden opportunity,’ leader says 

The lead convenor of PMTL is lawyer Alex Lacson. 

Lacson wrote the best-selling book 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country, which pushes for “small acts of patriotism.” 

Lacson also ran, and lost, as a senatorial candidate backed by Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP) in 2010. He said he is no longer running in 2016, and is not part of the LP. He later decided that he “was out of politics.”

“Today, we have a golden, wonderful opportunity to unite the Christian organizations from the Catholic and Evangelical communities,” Lacson said.

He said this is a golden opportunity because it “is very difficult to bring together in unity the big organizations from the Catholic community and the Evangelical community to do or perform an election-related activity together.”

Other religious leaders took turns in endorsing the PMTL.

One of them was Bishop Chito Sanchez, who represented the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC).

Sanchez said the PCEC is composed of about 30,000 Evangelical churches in the Philippines. He said the PCEC stands by the PMTL in its cause for “national transformation.”

Sanchez added, “Hand in hand, the Evangelicals and the Catholics together, we believe that there will be transformation, and one of the major areas will be in the elections to come.”

CBCP not endorsing bets

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, also addressed the crowd through a video message.

“We want to bring Christ to society. Our vision is to restore all things in Christ,” Villegas said.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, for his part, said in a written message that he as a bishop supports “the active participation of laypeople in partisan politics in order to change our political culture for the better.”

Fr Francis Lucas, president of the Catholic Media Network, clarified that the CBCP will not endorse any candidate in 2016.

“The leadership – that means the CBCP as a whole, all the bishops together – they will not endorse that. But it’s up to the people. It’s the people’s voice, it’s the people’s choice, not the leaders’ choice, because this is what we need in our country,” Lucas told reporters.

On Tuesday, Bishop Leo Alconga also spoke onstage supporting the PMTL on behalf of Brother Eddie Villanueva. 

Villanueva leads the Jesus is Lord (JIL) movement. He ran but lost in previous elections – twice for president, once for senator.

Villanueva’s son, Joel, works for the Aquino administration and is “seriously considering” running for senator.

Speaking as Villanueva’s representative, Alconga said of the PMTL, “Ang kilusang ito ang siyang magiging daan upang sa ating mga panaginip lalong lalo na sa panahon ng eleksyon.” (This movement is going to be our way to our dreams, especially during this election season.) – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.