Bishop cuts ties with Church-based election watchdog
MANILA, Philippines—The Archdiocese of Lipa, one of the largest in the country, has decided to cut its ties with the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the official citizen’s arm of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said the the archdiocese’s clergy decided to sever their links with the PPCRV on April 1. He hinted that other Catholic dioceses may soon follow their example.
Arguelles said the decision was arrived at after they learned that they would not be allowed to view the contents of the fourth copy of the election returns that their volunteers would have collected on Election Day before sending it to the PPCRV.
“They won’t inform us of the result and I don’t think that’s right because we will only look pitiful in the local elections. So that triggered [our decision],” he said in an interview.
Arguelles believes that “we cannot rely anymore on the present PPCRV since some of their leaders used to be Comelec people with a reputation that is questionable. There seems to be personal interests in the leadership.”
“We admire Ambassador [Henrietta] De Villa (the PPCRV president). But lately, for some reason, we are no longer sure if she’s still objective… what others complained about Namfrel in previous elections, the PPCRV is now guilty of the same, and we don’t want to be involved with them,” he said.
Arguelles, however, stressed that the archdiocese will still work for credible and orderly elections in Batangas province “and for good governance thereafter.”
He also clarified that while the archdiocese was cutting ties with the PPCRV, it did not mean that they prefer working with the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) over the Church-based poll watchdog.
The PPCRV and Namfrel were among the groups that the Comelec had accredited as its citizen’s arm in the May elections.
Arguelles did not discount the possibility that other bishops would also question the objectivity of the PPCRV.
“I think some bishops are also beginning to ask. I cannot speak for them. I don’t want to influence them,” he said.
Arguelles said some of the prelates he had texted informing them of the decision said that they would be following their lead.
Sought for comment, De Villa, a former ambassador to the Vatican, said she respects Arguelles’ decision.
“I can’t do anything if that’s his decision but I respect that. I also feel sad that this happened with only 40 days left before the elections,” she said.
“And regarding the thing he (Arguelles) was complaining about, it’s not that they would not be able to see the contents of the fourth copy of the election returns. Maybe he (Arguelles) cannot see it personally unless he goes to each and every precinct, but their poll watchers who are assigned in the polling places can see that,” De Villa explained.
The Lipa archdiocese’s move came two weeks after the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa), also ended its partnership with the PPCRV and backed the Namfrel instead.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the Nassa chair, said the reason why the Nassa was dropping the PPCRV was the latter’s refusal to coordinate with them.
Up to local bishops
But Nassa said it would be up to the local bishops to decide whether to continue working with the PPCRV.
Other Catholic prelates, however, remain supportive of the PPCRV, like Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, the CBCP president, and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo.
“As I have announced on several occasions, I give my trust and support to the PPCRV. I recognize in the PPCRV leadership the same desire to be of service to our people by working for clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful elections,” Palma said in a statement posted on the PPCRV website.
“Jaro remains with PPCRV. We have been with PPCRV ever since,” said Lagdameo in a text message.