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CBCP official warns priests vs crossing line in polls

/ 05:30 AM February 21, 2022
CBCP building in Intramuros, Manila, for story: CBCP official warns priests vs crossing line in polls

Facade of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)in Intramuros, Manila City. (File photo by RUDY ESPERAS / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — Amid the growing number of religious leaders openly endorsing specific candidates for the May 9 elections, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reminded them that they may be crossing the line.

In a recent interview on Radyo Veritas, CBCP vice president Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara said that while priests and nuns had every right to choose their candidates, they also needed to protect their identities as servants of the Church.

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“You can state your preference, you can say who your candidate is and why… but because this is your identity, maybe when you try to persuade others, you can do it unassumingly with prudence. It is much better that way,” Vergara said.

He added that a priest or bishop might be crossing the line by publicly endorsing the candidate they were supporting and …“we do not know the consequences.”

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Vergara noted that even wearing a mask of a particular color associated with certain candidates could be perceived by parishioners as campaigning.

“Yes, we are clerics, bishops, priests or nuns, and we are faced with our humanity of wanting to fight for what is true, what is good, beautiful, right [and] just,” he said.

But, he added, “it’s also good also to look at ourselves on what would be the best creative way that we will pursue it, given our identity.”

Be mindful

Vergara reminded them to be mindful of the Church’s mission and advocacy which could be compromised because of their endorsement of a candidate.

But earlier this month, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David gave his blessing to the Kalookan Laity for Principled Politics (KLAPP) as it backed the candidacies of Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.

“You, my dear laity, you have my blessing and I thank the Lord that you have taken this initiative because in the realm of politics, you are the front-liners,” David said in his message after the Mass for the first leaders’ assembly of Simbayanihan-KLAPP on Feb. 8.

David, also the incumbent CBCP president, said it was a grave sin against God to remain neutral on issues about good, evil, truth, and lies when the future of the country was at stake.

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“Hopefully, through (your group) and other laypeople, you can help others in carefully examining who among the candidates are truly pro-God, pro-people, pro-county, pro-environment and pro-life,” he said, adding: “And I think you already know.”

The group said that members reached the decision to endorse the Robredo-Pangilinan tandem after their “collective discernment,” where they prayed over, discussed and analyzed the platforms and track records of those running for president and vice president.

Through a statement released on Feb. 12, another group of priests, nuns and missionaries likewise announced their support for Robredo and Pangilinan who they said were the “best fit” to be the country’s next president and vice president.

The “Pari Madre Misyonero Para Kay Leni” identified three important qualities a leader of the country must possess: moral integrity (marangal), respect for basic human rights (makatao) and patriotism (makabayan).

As of Feb. 19, the group’s statement had garnered 602 signatories, including prominent names like former Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro and Fr. Amado Picardal, former spokesperson for the Coalition Against Summary Executions.

Silence not an option

Another group from the Catholic community that also expressed support for Robredo was the Ligaya ng Panginoon which said in a Feb. 7 statement that she reflected Christian values, based on her stand on various issues.

“As Christians, we cannot be silent in the face of systematic and continuing historical revisionism, which includes the organized spreading of disinformation and outright lying by some quarters in the guise of information,” it said.

At the same time, 11 out of 15 officials of the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas announced that they were endorsing Robredo, after an assessment of the platforms and track records of all presidential candidates.

“With our current political-economic turmoil and the pandemic situation in the Philippines, we firmly believe that Vice President Leni Robredo, a God-fearing person, is the most capable candidate for the presidency, and we urge our constituents, if possible, to consider the same,” they said in a statement signed on Feb. 5.

Laiko, the implementing arm of the Episcopal Commission on the Laity, works with other CBCP commissions, committees and offices.

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TAGS: #VotePH2022, 2022 elections, CBCP, Mylo Hubert Vergara, priest endorsing candidates
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