Diocese defies Comelec on Team Patay poster

Gilbert Bayoran
The diocese of Bacolod insists there's nothing illegal in its Team Patay, Team Buhay poster

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The Diocese of Bacolod continues to defy the order of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to remove the controversial “Team Patay, Team Buhay” tarpaulin in front of the San Sebastian Cathedral here, arguing that the material is covered by the “broader constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression and conscience.”

The Comelec earlier gave the diocese until Monday, February 25, to bring down the poster.

Mitchelle Abella, counsel of the Diocese of Bacolod, said the main message of the tarpaulin is not about the May elections, but about the rejection of the reproductive health law. “The stand and the campaign of the Diocese against the RH law has been undertaken for almost two years now when the law was just still a bill, and is independent of any occasion, electoral or otherwise,” Abella said.

The giant tarpaulin bares a list of senatorial candidates that the diocese is asking the Catholics to reject in the coming relections due to their stand in favor of the reproductive health (RH) law.

Of the 7 candidates for senator on the “Team Patay” list of the Diocese of Bacolod, 5 are from Team PNoy: Alan Peter Cayetano, Juan Edgardo Angara, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, and Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel.

Two other senatorial bets — Teddy Casiño (Makabayan) and Jack Enrile (United Nationalist Alliance) — and party-list groups Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Akbayan and Anak Pawis are also on the diocese’s “Team Patay” list.

The 6 senatorial candidates that the Diocese of Bacolod identified as pro-life, or as members of “Team Buhay,” for voting against the RH Law, are JV Ejercito-Estrada, Antonio Trillanes IV, Gregorio Honasan, Mitos Magsaysay, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Cynthia Villar. The diocese is encouraging voters to vote for them.

Abella, in a reply to Bacolod Election Officer Mavil Majarucon–Sia’s “notice to remove campaign materials” that was received by Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra Friday, said they want the Comelec’s legal department to issue a final ruling on the matter.

Pending a final decision, the tarpaulin should remain in the cathedral, he said.

Sia had ordered the removal of the controversial tarpaulin for being oversized at 6 by 10 ft, violating the Omnibus Election Code. The Code allows campaign materials in private premises, but only for a maximum size of 2 ft by 3 ft, Sia stressed.

Abella however explained that the size of the tarpaulin reflects the message that the diocese wanted to convey to its flock: six ft below the ground as a symbol of death, and 10 ft standing tall as the symbol of life.

Under ordinary circumstances, the diocese would not involve itself in partisan politics, Abellla said. “The fact that it is the election period is only incidental to this fight. With or without national or local elections, the diocese (will) oppose the RH law until it is repealed or adequately amended or modified,” Abella added. – Rappler.com

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