Philippine poll candidates warned against Lenten stunts

Church leaders appeal to politicians to respect Lenten observance and not exploit it to win votes
Philippine poll candidates warned against Lenten stunts

Lenten rituals in the Philippines sometimes become an opportunity for politicians to win campaign points. (Photo by Vincent Go)


A Catholic priest in the Philippine capital has called on politicians running in this year's national elections to respect the solemnity of liturgical celebrations during the Lenten season.

Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs committee of the Catholic bishops' conference, made the appeal ahead of the campaign period for the elections, which start this week.

"This is a reminder to them to instruct their supporters to keep from making noise near churches, especially if Mass is being celebrated," said the priest.

The parochial vicar of the church in Manila's central district of Quiapo made the same appeal.

Father Douglas Badong said if candidates are planning to attend Mass, they should "make sure that they are there to pray and not for show."

Father Edwin Gariguez, head of the social action secretariat of the bishops' conference, noted that it is a "temptation" for candidates during the Lenten season to be seen praying, "to show that they are pro-God."

The priest said voters in the predominantly Catholic country still take into consideration candidates who are seen as "pro-God."

Earlier, Catholic bishops called on candidates for various national and local positions to sign a "peace covenant" to ensure the elections on May 13 are orderly.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said if these covenants help bring peace especially in local politics "then they are to be encouraged."

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos in the central Philippines said that even if some candidates do not honor the covenant "at least for the record they signed ... and we can make them accountable later."

The Commission on Elections signing peace covenants is a "good idea" because "you don't give up on the possibility that it is genuine."

"As everyone knows, local elections are a little more volatile, more hard fought than national level contests because of the proximity of the rivals," said James Jimenez, spokesman of the poll body.

In the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma appealed to voters to "deliberate and seek God’s guidance" when voting.

He said voters have the power to elect those who they see fit, particularly those possessing moral values, because the entire community is a "stakeholder in the choice of its leaders."

The archbishop appealed to candidates from engaging in "smear campaigns," calling them "counter-productive."

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"The more you smear people, the more it will come back to you. What is important is to really focus on positive achievements and let the people decide," he said.

Poll watchdog, National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections, expressed optimism that this year's elections will not be tainted with vote buying, threats and harassment.

"[We believe] in the power of hope," said Dianne Kristie Anislag, the movement's representative in Cagayan de Oro City.

Filipinos will be electing 12 senators, House of Representatives members, and provincial and local leaders in the elections in May.

Jigger Jerusalem contributed to this report from Cagayan de Oro City.

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