MANILA, Philippines—The attempt to turn members of the election watchdog group Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) into “partisan” campaigners for the elections has apparently failed.
PPCRV chair Henrietta de Villa said most of the group’s members, who are scattered throughout the Catholic parishes all over the country, had chosen to remain with the watchdog group rather than actively campaign for or against candidates depending on their stand on the reproductive health (RH) law.
De Villa, a former ambassador to the Vatican, said the PPCRV would be deploying 320,000 to 350,000 volunteers on election day.
“There’s no effect, thank God. God is good,” she said when asked if the efforts to raid the PPCRV membership had succeeded.
Prolife Catholic lay leaders like former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and election lawyer Romulo Macalintal had urged PPCRV members to “liberate” themselves from the group so they could campaign actively for or against particular candidates in the May 13 elections.
Many Catholic groups and clergy are campaigning against candidates who support the reproductive health law that goes against the Church’s teachings on artificial contraception, divorce, gay marriage, abortion and other “life issues.”
Atienza and Macalintal complained that when they approached lay Catholic officials for help in their campaign against the RH law, they were rebuffed because the officials turned out to be members of the PPCRV, which is supposed to be nonpartisan.
De Villa said PPCRV members were “used to” being asked to join partisan campaigns and understood that their “nonpartisan” stance was beneficial to the country.
“We are used to that because, you know, we are nonpartisan. If others want to go the extra step and [endorse] candidates, they’re free to do so,” she said.
“For us, we are free to conduct voter education, values-based and so on, without naming names,” she said.
De Villa said the PPCRV believed that dictating on the laity whom to vote for was counterproductive.
“We believe that voters should develop their own discernment. If you keep feeding them, they will not learn. Their conscience would not develop. They will become dependent,” she said.
“It’s like continuing to give out doles. You do not teach them how to work on their own,” she added.
De Villa said the PPCRV had completed its preparations for election day and was ready for any contingencies.
“I’m happy to say that, as of now, we already have 320,000 volunteers nationwide. We haven’t serviced all the provinces but we already have 320,000. That’s why I’ve been so busy with the printers for their (identification cards),” she said.