MANILA, Philippines—The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines opened its semi-annual plenary assembly in Manila on Saturday to tackle Church matters and pressing national concerns.
Some 100 bishops from various dioceses were expected at the three-day gathering at the Pope Pius XII Center on UN Avenue in Manila.
The prelates are expected to discuss mining, the peace process and the coming May elections, among other issues.
The CBCP president, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, earlier said that the precinct count optical scan machines that will be used in the May elections would be on the agenda of the CBCP meeting.
Palma, in a previous Inquirer article, said the conference would discuss the voting-counting machines because many people had reason to believe that the machines had “a lot of defects.”
He expressed belief that the computerized voting-counting machines used in the 2010 elections were flawed and he wanted them thoroughly examined before these are used in this year’s midterm elections.
“I, for one, can tell, or I will say I’m not ashamed to tell people that I also believe [the PCOS machine has defects]. It has to be examined and that is part of the agenda of the CBCP,” Palma said.
A source in the CBCP added: “Our point is, the PCOS machines are not fool-proof… there are technical glitches and anomalies that need to be addressed. We might feel too complacent because of the fast election results in 2010. But we’re after the accuracy and the integrity of the election results.”
The source added that some resource persons, including from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Automated Election System (AES) Watch are expected to speak during the CBCP meeting.
Former government chief peace negotiator and now Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen has been invited to make a presentation on the preliminary Mindanao peace agreement, the source said.
The three-day assembly was preceded by a two-day seminar on Spirituality of Stewardship and on the New Evangelization, the theme of the recently concluded Synod of Bishops in Rome.
In a message to the CBCP, Pope Benedict XVI imparted his “apostolic blessing” to the bishops and said that he trusted that their meeting “will bear fruit.”
He said he was praying for the activities planned for the beginning of the nine-year period in preparation for the fifth centenary celebrations of Christianity in the Philippines.
The pontiff’s message was relayed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone through the papal nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto who graced the opening of the plenary assembly.
The CBCP traditionally issues pastoral statements after its plenary assemblies.