BACOLOD CITY—Church leaders here defied a Commission on Elections (Comelec) deadline set on Monday for the removal of a tarpaulin listing senatorial candidates to reject and vote for in front of San Sebastian Cathedral.
The tarpaulin has been labeled “Team Patay, Team Buhay (Team of Death, Team of Life)” based on the candidates’ stands on the recently enacted reproductive health (RH) law.
The Bacolod diocese said it will not remove the tarpaulin because it is covered by the constitutional “guarantee of freedom of expression and conscience.”
Mavil Majarucon-Sia, Bacolod election officer, last Friday ordered the tarpaulin removed for being oversized, at 6 by 10 feet. Majarucon-Sia said the allowed size of campaign posters or streamers is 2 by 3 feet.
Lawyer Mitchelle Abella, the diocese’s legal counsel, on Monday asked the Comelec legal department to issue a definitive ruling on the tarpaulin.
Abella said the tarpaulin stays until the Comelec legal department has issued the ruling.
“The stand and the campaign of the diocese against the RH law are independent of any occasion, election or otherwise,” Abella said.
Abella said the mention of the candidates in the tarpaulin is merely incidental to the Church campaign against the RH law.
If the Comelec really wanted to enforce rules on campaign materials, Abella said it should start with more glaring violations being committed by candidates.
In Palo, Leyte, Church leaders there said they would not follow the example set by the Bacolod diocese.
Fr. Amadeo Alvero, media coordinator of the Palo archdiocese, said the Church, however, would support any group that will launch a campaign to select candidates based on their stand on the RH law.
“The faithful know that the Church has openly opposed the reproductive health law. It is up now to the faithful if they would not vote for the proponents of the RH law,” Alvero said.
Veronico Petalcorin, assistant Comelec regional director, said the Church has all the right to list down candidates to reject or vote for.
“The Church is considered a private group. They can also endorse. There is no prohibition there. That’s their right,” Petalcorin said.