Church split over endorsing poll bets | The Daily Tribune
Written by Tribune
Sunday, 14 April 2013 00:00
VILLEGAS FAVORS ONLY GUIDELINES FOR VOTERS
A split among leaders of the Catholic Church over the naming of candidates it will support for the elections next month became evident yesterday after Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) vice president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas expressed opposition to a pastoral letter to church leaders and lay groups endorsement of candidates.
Villegas said while he strongly agreed that candidates who favored the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) law should not be voted, endorsing candidates is a bad idea for churches and ministers.
“When the Church endorses candidates in political elections, its spiritual mission will be compromised and religion will be “reduced” to a political party,” Villegas said.
The content of the pastoral letter will be delivered today as part of the Sunday Masses but it was released yesterday when the Catholic charismatic movement El Shaddai, which gets the support of many Catholic bishops, said it would announce last night candidates it will back in next month’s elections.
Among those the group is expected to endorse are United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) candidates Sen. Gringo Honasan, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay and San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito Estrada; Team PNoy candidates Cynthia Villar, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel and Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV mainly because of their staunch opposition to the RH law.
A “Team Buhay, Team Patay” (Team Life, Team Death) campaign was earlier launched by the Diocese of Bacolod City to support candidates who junked the RH law, while campaigning against “Team Patay” candidates who voted in favor of the RH law.
“We will be lonesome widows after
the elections for marrying partisan politics during the campaign,” Villegas said.
He said the endorsed candidate may win but the Church “always ends up loser” because its mission will be tarnished with the “stain of the mundane.”
“The Church should not be perceived as winning or losing an election. The Church must be beyond such,” Villegas said. “Religions that waltz with politics will die by politics,” he added.
“The Church must guide and not dictate. The Church must unite and not contribute to the division. The Church must pray and not add to the confusion. The Church must heal and not inflict hurts. The Church must be in the world but not belong to it,” he added.
The guidelines, to be read at Sunday masses across the country, were seen, however, as an attack on President Aquino’s allies who pushed for the RH law that was passed last year.
“We advise you not to vote for the candidate if the candidate cannot declare a categorical and clear ‘no’ to divorce, abortion, euthanasia, total birth control and homosexual marriages or death issues,” Villegas said.
The law requires state health centres to hand out free condoms and birth control pills and mandates that sex education be taught in schools.
However, the Supreme Court has temporarily suspended the law as it resolves at least six legal challenges filed by the church’s allies.
The Philippines is to hold mid-term elections on May 13 for the House of Representatives, half the 24-seat Senate, and thousands of local government posts.
About 80 percent of the Philippines’ 100 million people are Catholic, a legacy of Spanish colonial rule that ended in the late 1800s.
The Church remains one of the nation’s most powerful institutions, helping ensure that the Philippines remains one of the few places on earth where both abortion as well as divorce remain illegal.
Reacting to the pastoral letter, Aquino spokesman Ricky Carandang said: “We trust in the wisdom of the Filipino voter.”
The document also urges Catholics to shun candidates who are “antagonistic to church teachings and practices,” philanderers, drug dealers, and those who destroy the environment, buy votes or engage in terrorism.
Villegas, who heads an archdiocese in the vote-rich northern province of Pangasinan, however warned the church against outrightly endorsing its own candidates.
“When the Church endorses candidates in political elections she always ends up a loser,” he said.
Catholic groups led by El Shaddai earlier formed a White Vote Movement which will prepare an initial list of senatorial candidates it will support during a gathering that started at 5 p.m. yesterday.
Bro. Mike Velarde said his El Shaddai group and other lay organizations are hoping to gather 500,000 people who will act as volunteers in campaigning for their “pro-life and pro-family” bets.
“We are expecting an attendance of half-a-million and encourage them to work for at least 10 voters each,” Velarde said.
According to him, the volunteers, who will all be in white shirts, are coming from more than 30 lay groups nationwide.
“We will encourage them to go back to their communities and barangays to campaign for the candidates we have chosen for senators this coming elections,” he said.
Velarde earlier said that they might endorse around six to 10 senatorial candidates chosen for their stand against issues like the Reproductive Health Law, divorce and same-sex marriage.
“We will be issuing our own sample ballot so that our faithful will be properly guided who to vote,” he said.
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