Timely. Because election has become the grandest time (read: pastime) in the Filipino culture… Because it is almost always inevitable that the Church is dragged into this phenomenon… Because the role of the Church is often confused and is confusing at the same time … Because Church authorities have become under attack and are on the attack mode as well (several of them)… I find it opportune to share a section of my book (Morality of the Heart, 2013) where I discussed morality in politics.
I surveyed all the pronouncements of the Philippine Bishops by way of their collegial body popularly known as CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines). Their pronouncements take the form of “pastoral letters” which is usually read at Sunday Masses. Inferentially, the bishops paint a picture of the Filipino brand of politicking; they provide moral principles in the conduct of elections; they manifest that they are duty-bound by mission to speak out even in matters political; they express too (explicitly at that) the limitation of the said mission; and lastly, they exhort laypersons to take active role in politics.
Enjoy Reading! …Do a thinking as well.
The lack of morality in Philippine political life is a long-standing problem. In their pastoral letter of 2001 entitled “Blessing or Curse,” the Philippine Bishops describe the state of Philippine politics in harsh words: “It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving full development.” In the same tone, PCP-II names political immorality as an obstacle to integral development of the country. And in an even earlier statement, the Philippine Bishops call this sad national phenomenon as an offense, a great offense for that matter, against God, and a scandal. “It has been our sad experience that God’s will has been flagrantly transgressed in the past through the violation of our electoral process.”
Indeed, an array of corrupt practices has habitually plagued Philippine elections, such as registration anomalies and flying voters, vote-buying and selling, bribery, unwarranted pressures, lying, black propaganda, fraudulent casting, canvassing and reporting of votes, switching of ballot boxes, physical violence, killing, etc. These pre-election and election abuses later spawn post-election corruption.
As regards elections, the Philippine Bishops have insisted on the following Christian principles. Firstly, they assert that citizens have a right and duty to cast their votes. Citizens must exercise this right in an intelligent and Christian manner. “Cast your vote “coram Deo” (in the sight of God), in the consciousness that you will have to answer to God for the way in which you exercise this duty.
”Secondly, the bishops encourage all to consider participation in the country’s political decisions as a moral obligation, which must be done in accord with conscience. As a corollary to this, the bishops declare that it is immoral to sell one’s vote, that it is gravely wrong to put into power evil men. Furthermore, it is a crime before God and against the nation to obstruct, in any manner, citizen’s free exercise of their right and duty to vote.
Thirdly, the bishops invite the electorate to offer prayers and special mortifications, and even to organize special devotions for lawful and honest elections. Fourthly, the bishops encourage the voting population to study and evaluate the individual merits of political candidates and their platform of government; more than party affiliation, voters must scrutinize principally the candidates’ moral and religious points of view and records.
Along this line, the bishops even offer basic guidelines for the selection of political candidates, reminding Filipinos: “You must be a people with a spiritual vision to animate our citizens to vote only for those candidates who are truly maka-Diyos (godly or pro-God), maka-tao (humane or pro-people), and maka-bayan (patriotic). Fifthly, the bishops extend their call not merely for people to vote but also to band together and organize groups designed to prevent election irregularities. In this way, they can contravene old practices calculated to falsify the expressed wishes of the people and to attain victory at any cost. Filipinos must protect the sanctity of their votes against ballot-box stuffing, the switching and falsification of election documents and intimidation and bribery of election officials.
Lastly, the bishops appeal to the politicians themselves, to obey the laws of God and of the land in their campaign and election activities. Candidates who ignore these laws and resort to evil and corrupt practices during the electoral campaign do not deserve the offices they seek, since they show no commitment and moral responsibility towards the people.
(to be continued)