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Philippine bishop urges voters to follow their conscience

Warning issued against vote-buying and election fraud

Philippine bishop urges voters to follow their conscience
Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro
Bong Fabe, Cagayan de Oro City

April 19, 2013

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Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro in the southern Philippines called on voters to be "partisan" when electing senators and congressmen in next month's national elections.

In a four-page pastoral letter released yesterday, Ledesma reminded the faithful that the election is a "time for choice and decision making" and requires everyone to be "partisan."

He said that to be partisan in Philippine politics does not necessarily mean to side with only one party. 

"Voters are expected to follow their conscience in choosing public officials that will serve the common good and help in the development of their community," Ledesma said.

The 70-year-old Jesuit urged Catholics to campaign against "vote selling and vote buying" and against political dynasties.

Ledesma earlier led the launching of the "Our Votes Are Not for Sale" campaign of the archdiocese that calls for a stop to vote-buying, which is a criminal offense, during elections.

The prelate said that the practice is not only illegal but is also against the dignity of the voter himself who "exchanges his reasoning and freedom for a fleeting sum." 

Ledesma also reminded voters to choose candidates who have "character, conscience, competence, compassion, and commitment" as well as those who are "pro-God, pro-people and pro-environment."

Church groups, meanwhile, have started to form a coalition to support candidates who are "pro-family, pro-marriage and pro-life."

The Lay Solidarity Coalition for Preservation of Family and Life has started mobilizing members in parishes in preparation for next month's elections. 

"This is the time for the Church to gather and show our numbers," said Mike Velarde, head of the charismatic group El Shaddai and one of the conveners of the coalition formed by the Council of the Laity of the Philippines.

Other groups in the coalition include the Couples for Christ, the Foundation for Family and Life, the Catholic Women’s League and the Focolare Movement.

Velarde, whose group claims between five million to eight million members, said lay people should actively participate in politics and work for the renewal of the political system. 

Aurora Santiago, president of the Council of the Laity, said the new coalition would work to educate voters and endorse candidates.

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