MANILA, Philippines—Reacting to the White Vote Movement’s recent endorsement of senatorial candidates supportive of the Catholic Church’s opposition to the reproductive health (RH) law, Malacañang said it was leaving it to the voters to elect candidates over a range of issues.
“As far as this call to vote for candidates who were anti-RH, we will leave it to the voters on May 13, whether or not they will assess their chosen candidates based on a singular issue that may or may not be representative of the entire track record or capability of that particular candidate,” said deputy press spokesperson Abigail Valte in an interview over dzRB radio.
The newly formed White Vote Movement, led by the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai, endorsed over the weekend six senatorial candidates who stood by the Church in opposing the reproductive health law. They were JV Estrada, Gregorio Honasan, Mitos Magsaysay, Koko Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes IV and Cynthia Villar.
The announcement was made during a big prayer rally led by Mike Velarde, head of El Shaddai.
“It is one way of expressing our gratitude for the steadfast commitment they showed despite the pressure on them to change their position and vote for passage of the RH bill,” said Velarde.
Groups involved in the movement include Couples for Christ-Foundation for Family and Life, Catholic Women’s League, Focolare Movement, Bukas Loob sa Diyos, among other charismatic and parish-based organizations.
Another group, Cebu-based Lay Initiatives for Election (LIFE), also recently announced its endorsement of the same anti-RH candidates, plus former Sen. Richard Gordon, Nancy Binay and Juan Miguel Zubiri of United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), and independent candidates John Carlos de los Reyes, Marwil Llasos and Christian Seneres.
Malacañang had campaigned for the passage of the RH bill.
“As to the existence of a Catholic vote, we will leave that to the political analysts to debate and to speak about. We all have different ways of choosing. We have advocates here who have their own issues and choose their candidates based on these issues that in their view are important to them,” said Valte.
Velarde said the movement will announce another batch of candidates it would be endorsing in the coming weeks, “once a discernment process has been completed.”
In an interview with reporters, Velarde also said he was set to meet with Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who had urged Church leaders to avoid endorsing specific candidates.
Velarde said he would explain El Shaddai’s position to Villegas.
“After all, this is in answer to the bishops’ prodding of lay people… that we should take the initiative,” he said.