MANILA, Philippines—Despite the efforts of the Catholic Church to sway the electorate into supporting senatorial candidates it deemed good for the country, some of its leaders ended up disappointed with the results of the elections.
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who had publicly endorsed candidates who fought against the reproductive health (RH) law, on Tuesday said he was not at all happy with the outcome of the elections—most of the senatorial candidates in the winning circle supported the controversial measure.
“I am not happy,” Arguelles told the Inquirer in a text message, adding he was resigned to the idea that the country “is not yet ready for better things.”
The prelate said Church organizations had tried their best to guide the electorate “but it was not good enough.”
During the campaign, the Diocese of Bacolod even put up a large tarpaulin bearing the names of candidates who opposed the RH law, branding them as “Team Buhay.” It referred to those who voted for the measure as “Team Patay.”
Signed into law by President Aquino last December, the controversial measure provides poor people with information and access to various forms of family planning or birth control methods, including the use of condoms and other contraceptives.
Under the leadership of Bishop Vicente Navarra, the diocese also led a rally before the elections encouraging its parishioners to vote for candidates who would fight the RH law.
The diocese urged the faithful to support senatorial candidates JV Ejercito, Antonio Trillanes IV, Gregorio Honasan, Mitos Magsaysay, Koko Pimentel and Cynthia Villar, saying they belonged to “Team Buhay” for being prolife.
The diocese identified the “Team Patay” candidates as Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Jack Enrile, Risa Hontiveros and Teddy Casiño, who all voted in favor of the RH measure.
The White Vote Movement, led by Bro. Mike Velarde and his charismatic group El Shaddai, endorsed at least nine senatorial candidates who stood with the Church in opposing the family planning law.
‘Show biz more influential’
Arguelles said the surprising big win of Grace Poe—the daughter of the late movie king Fernando Poe Jr.—in the senatorial contest put into question the influence of the Church and charismatic groups.
“That means show biz is more influential than (the) spiritual and moral force as of now,” he said.
Over Church-run Radio Veritas, Jolo Bishop Angelito Lampon said the elections were still a popularity contest. “But we cannot blame the D and E electorate. It will take time for Filipinos to be politically mature,” he said.
“We should go back to political parties with a clear platform of government,” he added.
Antipolo Auxiliary Bishop Franciso de Leon also expressed dismay over the results of the elections.
But for Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, the “Catholic vote” was not at all absent during the elections.
“I think one indication that it worked somehow is that the Buhay party list is leading the count,” Cruz told the Inquirer, referring to Velarde’s group.
He also said the “Catholic vote” worked for some of the prolife candidates.
Cruz said he was not surprised Poe was leading the Senate count, pointing out that she had her own capability as a lawmaker, based on her answers during campaign debates.
Second, Poe’s stellar performance was somehow a vindication for her father, who ran for president in 2004 but lost to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, according to Cruz.
“Third, he was also endorsed by former President Joseph Estrada,” the retired prelate added.
The Church campaign for “Team Buhay” in Negros Occidental apparently did not have much of an impact in the senatorial elections.
Three candidates on the “Team Patay” list of the Bacolod diocese were among the top winners in the Senate races in the province, initial poll results showed. They were Legarda, Cayetano and Escudero.
Three candidates on the “Team Buhay” list of the diocese were also in the Magic 12—Pimentel, Trillanes and Villar.—With a report from Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas