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Philippine church groups join anti-Duterte coalition

1Sambayan alliance names candidates it wants to take on the president's faction in next year's polls

Philippine church groups join anti-Duterte coalition

Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo salutes during a wreath-laying ceremony during Independence Day celebrations at the Rizal monument in Manila in this 2019 file photo. (Photo: AFP)

A Catholic foundation and a seminary in the Philippines have joined a broad coalition that is seeking to back candidates running against President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies and party in the 2022 polls.

The alliance, 1Sambayan, was formed in March by groups opposed to corruption and extrajudicial killings allegedly being committed by the Duterte administration.

On June 12 — the Philippines’ Independence Day — it published a list of members that included the Society of the Divine Word’s St. Arnold Jansen Kalinga Center and the St. Vincent School of Theology seminary.

It also released a list of six people it said it wanted to run in next year’s presidential election.

They included current Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Grace Poe, who have yet to declare whether they will run.

The center’s founder, Father Flavie Villanueva, is a staunch critic of Duterte’s war on illegal drugs.

True freedom stems from a leadership that has a strong moral fiber

“I do not tolerate people or leaders that kill or take another person’s life, who are corrupt and disrespectful,” the Divine Word priest said in a social media post on June 12.

“True freedom stems from a leadership that has a strong moral fiber, having a heart that serves [the poor], and with individuals who have integrity in serving our wounded nation,” he said, giving his reasons why his organization had joined the political movement.

The Vincentian-run theological school likewise said it had joined the coalition in line with its principle of “practicing theology from the margins.”

“At the St. Vincent School of Theology, we students are not only grounded in theory but also what’s real,” said seminarian Angelo Sarita.

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Sarita said the seminary joined the alliance to fight against a reality that is seeing many people suffer.

“We must resolve to take action, either by group or individually, to systematically change or rescue the situation, bearing always in mind the preferential option for the poor,” Sarita added.

Both the foundation and seminary have been actively helping the Philippines’ poorest through conducting feeding programs.

Are we tired of all the problems in the country? We have a chance to make change happen

Manila churchgoers backed Catholic institutions joining the coalition against Duterte, calling their move a moral obligation rather than a political one.

“We hope other groups will follow. This is not just about one individual [Duterte] but against the social ills that beset the Philippines,” Frank De Leon told UCA News.

The Catholic Church hierarchy must encourage people to vote in the next polls if they want change, he said.

“Are we tired of all the problems in the country? We have a chance to make change happen … not through violent means but through the election process. I hope to hear our bishops speak louder in encouraging our people to vote,” De Leon said.

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