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Philippine bishops urge voters to reject 'corrupt' politicians

Pastoral letter a response to criticisms Church has not done enough to educate voters

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

Updated: June 11, 2015 06:15 PM GMT
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Philippine bishops urge voters to reject 'corrupt' politicians

Parish volunteers monitor the conduct of elections in a polling precinct in Manila during 2013 elections (Photo by Jimmy Domingo)

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Catholic bishops in the Philippines this weekend issued a pastoral letter calling on voters to reject “notoriously corrupt” politicians running in next year’s national elections.

In the pastoral letter, which was read in churches on Sunday, Church officials sought to remind the electorate that voting is not merely a political right, but “a moral obligation”.

“While politicians plan and strategize [and] find ways of circumventing the law against premature campaigning, the Church cannot be remiss in its obligation of forming the consciences of Catholic and Christian voters," the bishops said in the letter, which was signed by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

The letter called on the public to "vote for the right reasons … not because you have been paid … but because you trust a person to lead the community and to lead the country."

The bishops also urged voters to end political dynasties by not voting for candidates from the same family who want to perpetuate the family's hold on public office.

"There is no monopoly on ability for government, and truly no one in government is indispensable," the bishops said.

The bishops cited criticisms that previous Church efforts to educate voters had come too late to be effective.

“It may never be again said that we spoke too late,” the letter stated.

The bishops nevertheless warned the electorate not to jump to conclusions “in the absence of incontrovertible evidence”.

"These days, one's reputation, so painstakingly built by sincerity and honesty over the years, can so easily be tarnished by the truly evil work of 'spin-doctors' in the payroll of one or the other political aspirant," the pastoral letter said.

Last month, Church leaders launched a campaign against "vote buying" and "vote selling”, dubbed "Thou Shall Not Steal”.

In 2013, the country's Catholic bishops questioned the results of national elections due to reports of rampant vote fraud.

The National Secretariat for Social Action of the bishops' conference said those elections made "a mockery of the country’s democracy." The bishops noted that although the elections were relatively peaceful, there were "glaring discrepancies and election violations".

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