MANILA, Philippines – While cautious not to “dictate” on voters, Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David gave his “blessing” to a local lay group supporting presidential bet Leni Robredo and running mate Kiko Pangilinan in the May 9 polls.
David, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), made this move as head of the Diocese of Kalookan, which covers 1.15 million Catholics in south Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas.
The lay group endorsing Robredo and Pangilinan – the Kalookan Laity for Principled Politics (KLAPP) – is composed of lay leaders and various sectors from Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas. They reached this decision after a process of “collective discernment” and “consensus building.”
“Gusto kong malaman ninyo na maasahan ninyo ang aking basbas bilang inyong obispo (I would like you to know that you are assured of my blessing as a bishop),” David said in remarks after a Mass for the First Leaders Assembly of Simbayanihan-KLAPP on Tuesday, February 8, the start of the campaign period for national candidates.
“You, my dear laity, you have my blessing and I thank the Lord that you have taken this initiative because in the realm of politics, you are the frontliners,” he added.
The CBCP, the coordinating body for all 127 bishops across the Philippines, has not endorsed any candidate or backed any lay group making its own endorsement.
Beyond ‘nonpartisan’ initiatives
In his remarks on Tuesday, David said Catholic leaders do not dictate on voters because of their respect for each person’s conscience.
But David, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, said lay Catholics should go beyond “nonpartisan” church initiatives, such as volunteering for the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. Instead, they should take a stand for “principled politics.”
“Ano bang halaga ng magbantay sa ating eleksyon kung wala namang nagvo-volunteer para tulungan at suportahan ang mga kandidatong kumakatawan para sa principled politics na magtataguyod ng common good sa ating lipunan?” he said. (What is the purpose of safeguarding elections if no one is volunteering to help and support candidates who embody principled politics that would build the common good in our society?)
The bishop, quoting Pope Francis, told the lay group that politics is an important aspect of society that they should also engage in as citizens.
“Isang malaking kasalanan sa Diyos na usapin ng mabuti’t masama, totoo, at kasinungalingan ay mag-neutral ka. Ang ibig sabihin ng neutral, panig ka sa masama. So, hindi tamang maging neutral kapag ang nakasalalay ay katotohanan at kinabukasan ng ating bayan,” the bishop said. (It is a grave sin against God that you are neutral in matters of good and evil, truth, and lies. So it is not right to be neutral when the truth and the future of our country are at stake.)
David said that he hopes that similar initiatives can spur initiatives in communities that will empower voters through “intelligent discussion, collective discernment, and building of consensus.”
“At sana, sa pamamagitan ninyo at ng marami pang mga kapwa laiko ninyo ay inyong maakay na kumilatis nang mabuti kung sino ba sa mga kandidato ang tunay na maka-Diyos, makatao, makabayan, makakalikasan at makabuhay,” he said. (And hopefully, through you and other lay people, you can help others to carefully examine who among the candidates are for pro-God, pro-people, pro-country, pro-environment, and pro-life.)
“At sa tingin ko,” said David, “alam na ninyo.” (And I think, you already know.)
Unlike the Iglesia ni Cristo that practices bloc voting, the Catholic Church as an institution has refrained from endorsing or denouncing candidates. Exceptions include the aftermath of the snap elections of February 7, 1986, when the CBCP denounced fraud and said the Marcos government therefore “has no moral basis.”
On an individual level, however, individual priests and religious have supported or campaigned against particular candidates.
In 2013, when the Diocese of Bacolod put up posters labeling those who voted for the RH Bill as “Team Patay (Team of death).”
In 2019, ahead of the midterm elections, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas also suggested that supporting Duterte’s bets is a betrayal of God. In the same year, the CBCP’s lay arm, the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas, endorsed the opposition’s Otso Diretso slate. – Rappler.com
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