Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila told presidential hopefuls to lift up the level of politics in the Philippines. (File photo by Vincent Go)
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila has urged aspirants for next year's Philippine presidential elections to elevate the country's level of politics.
The prelate hosted a closed-door prayer service for top presidential aspirants — Vice President Jejomar Binay, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, and Senator Grace Poe — on Sept. 7, months before May national elections.
In a statement released to the media on Sept. 8, Cardinal Tagle said there was "no political discussion" during the meeting.
He said the event was organized by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting "as part of pastoral care not only of voters but also of potential candidates".
The council is a parish-based election watchdog of the Catholic Church.
The prelate said the program was "simple" and included an evening prayer, dinner, and "meditation on humble servant leadership in the Bible and the role of servant leaders in promoting the common good".
Henrietta de Villa, chairwoman of the council, said the cardinal reminded the candidates that "even when the rigors of the campaign reached fever pitch ... the level of the campaign would be elevated".
"The cardinal asked them to raise the bar in political campaigning," she said.
De Villa described the meeting as "friendly" and "just [a] plain moment of providing [the candidates] some kind of spiritual rest".
She said Cardinal Tagle reminded the politicians that to be a servant, "you must serve first".
"The atmosphere was jovial because the cardinal is a very relaxed person," De Vill said.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has clarified that it will not be endorsing candidates in the elections.
Reports of election candidates bribing, intimidating or even killing to ensure election victory are common in the Philippines.
During 2013 mid-term elections, at least seven people were reported killed on polling day alone, while at least 60 people were killed in the lead-up to the election.