By Christina Hermoso and Leslie Ann Aquino
“Be critical voters. Be Godly voters. Bring your faith as you choose. Do not leave God when you vote,” a Catholic Church leader reminded the electorate Monday as 60 million voters troop to polling centers to cast their votes for the mid-term elections.
“Each vote is the power of the people to choose their leaders. It is the backbone of democracy. The candidates are job applicants for vacant positions. They must present their credentials humbly and honestly. We have the duty to assess them diligently and, freed from pressure, check if they meet our standards. We decide; not the candidates,” said Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas in a pastoral letter for the midterm elections.
Villegas stressed that the choice of candidates is reflective of the kind of person we are.
“The kind of leaders we elect reveals the kind of people we are. The winners in elections are mirrors of the values and aspirations, dreams and hopes of the people who voted for them,” he said.
The former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) enumerated five primary concerns that need to be addressed that voters must consider when choosing whom to vote: Kamatayan, Kabastusan, Korapsyon, Kahirapan, Kasarinlan, and Kasinungalingan.
“Killing criminals does not solve problems; it has not solved the drug problem. Vulgarity is not Filipino. The Filipino loves God. Honesty is still the best policy; it should be; it will always be. There is no place in heaven for liars. Lying candidates should receive no vote. Liar candidates will be the future corrupt officials. Fake news is the mother of corruption. Corruption thrives in the plastic garden of fake news,” Villegas stressed.
“A clear and realistic program for the poor, for the homeless and the sick, for those with disabilities and for the jobless must go beyond sweet promises of candidates. Self-serving moves to amend the Constitution and the prevalence of political dynasties will hurt the poor even more. If we do not vote well, more of our freedoms will be lost to political dynasties,” the prelate said. He also cited the importance of the country’s independence as a nation and against intrusion.
Villegas urged voters to “bring their faith as they vote and to vote like Christ would.”
“God will judge us for the way we vote. Our children will judge us for the way we vote. This election is important for them. Think of them. Be careful. Be critical. Be courageous. How would Christ vote? Vote like Christ. Do not leave God at the altar. Bring your Christian faith when you vote,” the Church leader said.
Praying for HOPE
Different parishes in the country on Sunday prayed for honest, orderly, and peaceful elections (HOPE). Among these parishes are those under the Archdiocese of Caceres in Naga City.
Priests in the said archdiocese were earlier asked by Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona to include in their Masses the said prayer intention.
“Please include in your intentions the faithful compliance, safety, and well-being of all those assigned to facilitate and safeguard a credible, honest, peaceful May 13 election,” the prelate said in a letter to parish priests.
“We pray in particular for our dedicated Comelec officials, our dear teachers, the courageous AFP and PNP security, and all others tasked to guarantee a credible, honest and peaceful election,” added Tirona.
“May the Holy Spirit strengthen, protect, and guide these public servants in the exercise of their noble duty to be ever vigilant and to safeguard the sanctity of every vote cast by the eligible voters,” he said.
Archbishop Tirona asked his priests to continue to pray for the said intentions until Election Day.
In Manila, the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Intramuros also held a Mass and a candlelight rosary procession to pray for clean and honest elections.
“Election Day this year falls on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. And so, on the eve of her feast day, let us come together as one nation to pray for meaningful elections.”
The celebration was made more meaningful by the presence of a replica image at the Chapel of Apparitions from Fatima, Portugal.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo stressed the need for voters to pray over their votes as they prepare to vote on Monday.
“Praying over our votes also helps us to choose well. If we pray over our vote, will we include in our list a thief, a dishonest person, or one who promotes killing? If we pray over our vote, will we allow our vote to be influenced by money, or much worse, sell it? We are poor and people have already robbed us of basic services in life, of our environment, of our jobs. Let them not rob us of our dignity. Our one vote is our dignity. Let us not sell it,” he said.
The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches also issued the same call to their members.
“Let us pray, discern, and vote wisely for here lies the welfare of our country,” said Bishop Noel Pantoja, PCEC National Director.
“Let us promote a culture of integrity during this election. Do not sell your vote; for it is sacred. The freedom to choose our leaders is God’s gift; the freedom to vote is a legacy bestowed by our forefathers. Let us value this freedom, and not exchange long-term benefits for temporary gains,” he added.
Pantoja also asked Christians to vote saying elections offer an opportunity to correct the wrong decisions in the past.
“The elections give us a chance to correct them. God allows us, through the election process, to exact accountability from those who have been elected and turned their backs on their sworn duties. Let us make the right decision and not choose again such candidates,” he said.