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Philippine church steps up clean election campaign

Warns against voting for 'liars, athiests' and those who stoke violence

Joe Torres, Dipolog City

Joe Torres, Dipolog City

Published: April 04, 2016 08:26 AM GMT

Updated: April 04, 2016 08:30 AM GMT

Philippine church steps up clean election campaign

Young Filipinos campaign for their political candidates during the 2013 midterm elections in Metro Manila. (Photo by Jimmy Domingo)

With about five weeks left before Filipinos go to the polls to elect their national leaders, the country's Catholic bishops have intensified a campaign to remind voters to ensure "free and fair elections."

"Let us continue struggling on to free ourselves from whatever enslaves us," Bishop Severo Caermare of Dipolog urged Catholics in a pastoral letter released April 3.

The prelate released the letter after several local candidates in the southern Philippine city of Dipolog walked out of a covenant signing ceremony for a peaceful election on April 1.

Francis Olvis, a mayoral candidate, refused to affix his signature on the peace covenant, saying that the police and the military failed to guarantee peaceful elections in the past.

Reports of election candidates bribing, intimidating or even killing to ensure election victory are common in the Philippines.

During 2013 midterm 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.

"It's useless and hypocritical to sign that peace covenant," said Olvis.

Bishop Caermare said people should "not use what happened in the past as a measure of what can happen in the coming elections."

In his own pastoral letter, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, urged voters to "beware of liars."

"Lying is a devil with many faces. Be wise. Watch out. Do not vote for liars," said Archbishop Villegas, president of the country's Catholic bishops' conference.

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The prelate asked Catholics not to vote for candidates who have a history of violating oaths.  

Archbishop Villegas also asked voters not to vote for atheists or people who make fun of God. 

"A Catholic cannot support a candidate who vows to wipe out religion from public life," said the archbishop.

The Philippines will hold its general election on May 9 for executive and legislative branches for all levels of government. 




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