Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, today said there is no such thing as a "Catholic vote" in the country.The prelate's statement came after another Church leader urged Filipinos to use their "religious beliefs in rejecting candidates who are not following the Church’s teachings."Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa last week called on Filipinos not to vote for candidates in next year's elections who favor the controversial reproductive health bill.In an interview with ucanews.com, Palma, however, said the bishops' conference has no official statement on the so-called Catholic vote.Pressed if he is going to come up with an official statement, the prelate said there is no history of "block voting."
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a constitutional expert, has said the so-called Catholic vote in the Philippines is nothing but a “political myth.”With 75.5 million members in 2011, Catholicism is the predominant religion in the country. The Philippines has the fourth largest number of Catholic citizens in the world after Brazil, Mexico and the United States. It is also one of the two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia, along with East Timor.“If the bishops will really unite and pursue the campaign, I think we can really come up with a Catholic vote," said Bishop Martin Jumoad of Basilan. It is the "Church’s moral responsibility to uphold the sanctity of life,” he said, adding that the bishops will do their best "to reject or derail" the passage of the reproductive health bill by urging Catholics not to support it.The controversial measure is still being discussed in Congress 17 years after it was proposed. The proposed law seeks to provide funds for services on sex education, family planning and other reproductive health services for women. Congress is set to decide on the bill before the year ends.