THE ELECTION of Fr. Eddie Panlilio as the new governor of Pampanga is an admirable but exceptional case, UST Rector Fr. Ernesto Arceo O.P. said.

“Under normal circumstances, a priest should not directly involve himself in politics,” Arceo told the Varsitarian. “However, Panlilio’s case is different since he wanted to do changes in the province. He chose to take the lead, and that’s admirable, although very difficult for a priest to do.”

Panlilio won over two formidable foes—provincial board member Lilia Pineda, wife of suspected jueteng lord Bong Pineda, and re-electionist Gov. Mark Lapid, who both have well-funded campaign machineries, He won by a sum of 1,147 votes against Pineda, who was second.

As a popular social worker, Panlilio presented himself as an alternative to the two candidates, whom he said are both corrupt.

During the election campaign, Pampanga residents held prayer rallies for Panlilio, also known as Among Ed, the popular outpouring for Panlilio was called “Edsa Pampanga”.

Although Panlilio chose to remain a priest, Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, D.D. suspended his priestly powers until his term of office ends in 2010. He previously drew flak from politicians and church leaders, including Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz who urged him to quit priesthood before assuming his post.

“After consulting equally distinguished canon lawyers, I understand that re-entry to the priesthood is possible after my exit from public office,” Panlilio told the Philippine Star.

Arceo said that a possible reason why Panlilio chose to take a leave from his priestly duties and to run for governor is because he believes no one in the province is capable or willing enough to assume the gubernatorial post.

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“I believe that if there are people, other than a priest, who are qualified to run for the position of governor, then Fr. Panlilio would not have to run. But since he saw that none of the candidates were really able, he decided to take the lead,” Arceo said.

He added that Panlilio’s election as governor should start new changes in Pampanga.

“Although I believe that Panilio can remove jueteng, which is prevalent in Pampanga, the problem is that it can move to neighboring provinces,” he said. “His election means that the people want progress so he should take it upon himself to start changes.”

Arceo also believes that Panlilio may not find it a hard time adjusting to the life of a politician since it is one service, like a priest’s.

“I believe that nothing is considered a higher act between being a priest and being a politician since both entail service. However, what matters is that you do them morally,” he said.

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