MANILA, Philippines — The newly formed White Vote Movement led by the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai has endorsed over the weekend six senatorial candidates, who have stood by the Church in opposing the reproductive health law, for the upcoming May 13 elections.
The movement named the senatorial candidates it was supporting as Joseph Victor Ejercito, Gregorio Honasan, Mitos Magsaysay, Koko Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes IV and Cynthia Villar.
The announcement was made during a big prayer rally led by the El Shaddai Prayer Partners Foundation at the El Shaddai International House of Prayer in Parañaque City on Saturday.
“It is one way of expressing our gratitude for the steadfast commitment they showed despite the pressure for them to change their position and vote for the passage of the RH bill,” said Bro. Mike Velarde, El Shaddai leader and the movement’s designated spokesperson.
Groups involved in the movement included the Couples for Christ-Foundation for Family and Life, Catholic Women’s League, Focolare Movement, Bukas Loob sa Diyos, among other biggest charismatic groups and parish-mandated organizations within the Church in the country.
Velarde said the movement would soon announce another batch of candidates it would endorse to the electorate in the coming weeks after a “discernment process.”
In an interview with reporters, Velarde said he was set to meet on Sunday night with Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who was supposedly “misquoted” that he was against church leaders and lay groups endorsing candidates for the upcoming balloting.
In a powerful pastoral letter, Villegas urged Church leaders to avoid endorsing specific candidates as it would “compromise” the Church’s spiritual mission and its role to “guide and not dictate and help unite society instead of causing more divisions.”
“I will be with him (archbishop) tonight. But the advance information I have is that he was misquoted… he doesn’t know yet about the White Vote Movement but the other bishops talked to him and he understood what is this all about,” said Velarde.
“After all, this is an answer to the bishops’ prodding to the lay that we should make the initiative,” he added. Velarde said he would explain the movement to the archbishop if he had time.
“I will explain that the endorsement does not necessarily mean we are compelling people to vote. For example, [President Aquino] is telling us to vote 12-0 [for the Liberal Party] right? Is that politicking? No, he is just trying to sell his candidates so that’s what [the movement] is also doing,” he pointed out.
In his homily, Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani also stressed that the 2nd Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1991 stated that lay Catholic groups could publicly support candidates.
“During that important event in the history of the Church, it was said that the lay should support and endorse candidates who are good for the country. That is a right of the laity,” said Bacani.
The prelate said that while priests and bishops could not endorse candidates for the upcoming elections, Velarde could do so. “It is his right as a lay person,” said the bishop.