MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ powerful Catholic Church is to ask Filipinos to vote candidates who support birth control out of office in the May elections, a Church official said Saturday.
The guidelines, to be read at Sunday masses across the country, are seen as an attack on President Benigno Aquino III’s allies who pushed for a controversial birth control law that was passed last year.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, vice president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said in a copy of the pastoral letter sent to Agence France-Presse: “Pro-choice is anti-life.”
He added: “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.”
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 told AFP: “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.