Philippine watchdog warns against Holy Week electioneering

Church-based group calls on candidates in upcoming local polls to respect religious message Easter conveys
Philippine watchdog warns against Holy Week electioneering

Voters wait for their turn to cast their votes in Manila during the 2016 national elections. (Photo by Mark Saludes) reporter, Manila
March 28, 2018
A church-based election watchdog in the Philippines appealed to candidates for this year's village and youth council elections not to use Holy Week activities for campaigning.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting noted that some candidates have already posted banners with "Happy Easter" messages outside churches.

"We appeal to candidates not to make use of Holy Week to advance their candidacies," said Rene Sarmiento, chairman of the council.

"Let us respect the occasion," he added, noting that there are candidates who even distribute bottled water and fans to people who observe the Philippine tradition of visiting several churches on Good Friday.

Sarmiento called on voters to be "very mindful about candidates who give out all this water."

There is no law, however, that prohibits individuals from campaigning, especially those who have yet to file their certificates of candidacy for the May 14 elections.

The Commission on Elections has set a period for filing certificates of candidacy from April 14 to 20, while the campaign period is from May 4 to 12.

Nationwide elections for village leaders will be held as scheduled after a proposal in the Philippine Lower House to postpone the polls to October failed to get Senate backing.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting opposed the move to postpone the elections, saying election delays "were fast becoming a habit."

Village and youth council elections have already been postponed twice in the last year and a half. "It is not good for our country that proclaims itself as democratic and republican," said Sarmiento.

He said an important condition of a healthy democratic and republican system is periodic and regular elections.

"Elections ensure that the people's chosen representatives, the people's agents, will remain answerable and accountable to the electorate," said the lawyer.

Sarmiento said the Filipino public is growing impatient and restless because of repeated postponements of the village polls.

The elections were originally set for Oct. 31, 2016, before being postponed to Oct. 23, 2017, and then to May 14, 2018.

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