As elections in the Philippines near, several Catholic bishops are using the pulpit to urge people to elect “the right leaders” and to learn from the lessons of the past. In a pastoral message circulated in his archdiocese at the weekend, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan
called on Catholics to bring their Christian faith when they vote. "Do not leave God when you vote," he said, adding that the winners in elections are "mirrors of the values and aspirations, dreams and hopes of the people who voted for them." The Philippines will hold national elections on May 13 to vote for 12 senators, members of the House of Representatives and provincial and local leaders. Archbishop Villegas said peoples’ choices "can also show how far backward our society is moving."
"Look at the candidates and ask: Have they given the orders to kill? Have they protected liars?" he said referring to drug related killings and the targeted killings of activists, lawyers and journalists. "Truth is not a political issue; it is a moral issue. Human dignity goes beyond political coalitions. It is a godly concern," added the prelate. Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo
, meanwhile, said voters should learn from their mistakes in the 2016 elections. "Many have regretted their votes in the 2016 elections. Let this be a lesson to us now. Let us be wiser," he said. President Rodrigo Duterte, often criticized by church leaders for his “war” on illegal drugs, won the presidency during those elections. Bishop Pabillo said voters should not be influenced by survey results and polls as they merely serve as a propaganda tool. He said it is not enough for Catholics to vote for good and deserving candidates but also to campaign for them. "Tell people whom to vote for," said the bishop. "Let all good people campaign and vote not for winnable people but for those who really can help in good governance," he added. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines has also called on Filipinos to make a "profound change" by shunning corrupt candidates. "Let us vote for those who will walk with the masses of the poor in our nation, who suffer under the burden of the cross of poverty," read a statement from the Protestant organization. "Let us shun those who bear the sins of corruption, those who push for ill-conceived development, and those who seek power but lack real accountability to the people," it added. The church group
said Christians are called upon to keep their eye on the greater good of the people, especially the most disadvantaged. "Let us cast our vote as an act of faith in practice, not just as an act of self-interest," read the Protestant statement. The Council for the Laity, meanwhile, said Christian groups cannot remain non-partisan anymore in this election. "When the sovereignty of the country, the lives of our people, and the honor of the Philippines are at stake, we cannot anymore remain as non-partisan organizations," said the group in a statement in reference to the killings and Duterte’s cozying up to the Chinese.
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