THE DIOCESE of Bacolod and the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan have shown contrasting though not necessarily conflicting approaches to the May 13 elections. While Bacolod has outrightly identified for the Catholic faithful all those who voted for and against the Reproductive Health law last year, urging Catholic voters to reject the former and accept the latter, Lingayen-Dagupan has stopped short of naming names, merely coming up with general prescriptions of what a wise and correct vote could be, with emphasis of course on the Church’s pro-life, natural-law advocacy.

Anti-church groups have been quick to pooh-pooh the two approaches; but their noisy criticism should indicate their insecurity of an emerging conscience vote against those who had pressed for the divisive vote on the RH bill, such as the stalwarts of the Aquino administration, whose cacique cabeza is himself not immune from resorting to pork barrel, dynasticism, and the worst practices of old politics to get his spoiled-brat way.

In stark contrast to the cynicism and carpetbaggery of the Aquino administration and Congress, the Catholic Church has taken the high road, urging that conscience and conviction should govern public policy and election. Even if they basically differ on the issue of endorsement, on naming names, so to speak, the Bacolod and Lingayen-Dagupan churches essentially agree that May 13 is a chance for intelligent and morally correct election against the guns, goons and gold of traditional politics.

The Diocese of Bacolod displayed a striking, enormous tarpaulin poster on its cathedral façade, categorizing Senate candidates into two: “Team Buhay,” composed of those who opposed the RH bill, and “Team Patay,” composed of those who rammed it through the legislative mill. In particular, Bacolod named six senators whom Negrenses should vote into office: re-electionist Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel IV, and Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan; Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito-Estrada, and Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay. (The list has since been updated to include Ang Kapatiran senatorial candidates JC de los Reyes, Lito Yap David and Marwil Llasos.)

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Critics have urged that the tarpaulin be brought down, but even the Commission on Elections finds nothing fundamentally wrong with it, except for its size which allegedly does not conform to the prescribed dimensions. Forthwith the Diocese of Comelec has cut the billboard into two, separating Team Buhay from Team Patay. Critics who want the posters pulled down on the bases of alleged electioneering and disinformation are making a self-serving call. The cathedral is private property. Moreover, any unreasonable demand by the Comelec on the Bacolod diocese violates the separation of church and state.

Detractors should also contend with the moral authority of the Bacolod church. This is a church that has a history of social activism. In the 1970’s and the 1980’s, the Diocese of Bacolod fought for social justice and the socio-economic amelioration of the sacadas or sugar workers. The rector of the cathedral who had the tarpaulin put up is Monsignor Bert Pasquin, who was spokesman of the late Bishop Antonio Fortich, who had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy of social justice and agrarian reform. The incumbent bishop, Monsignor Vicente Navarra, used to be bishop of the Diocese of Kabankalan, also in Negros Oriental, during which he had criticized the overkill military offensives against the communists that had resulted in an overflow of refugees, to whom he provided refuge in his churches.

The history of the Negros church should indicate that its pro-life advocacy dovetails with its sterling record of fighting for human rights and social justice. The pro-life vote is not a reductionist vote.

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There is no reductionism either in the pastoral statement of Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas. Eschewing directly endorsing candidates, Villegas says the Church “must guide, not dictate.” Just the same, he urges voters to reject candidates who “cannot declare a categorical and clear NO to divorce, abortion, euthanasia, total birth control and homosexual marriages,” or what he calls “D.E.A.T.H issues.” He also urged rejection of candidates who have been linked to drug trade or drug use, or have received money from illegal gambling; who support black sand mining or tolerate “irresponsible quarrying or illegal fish pens”; who have been convicted of criminal offense; who have “not done anything to uplift the plight of the poor”; who buy votes; who are corrupt or have a record of corruption; who are “unfaithful” to their spouses and children (“Corruption begins at home,” the good bishop says; Amen to that); and who practice dynastic politics or nepotism.

The Varsitarian supports the approaches of the highly respected churches of Negros and Pangasinan. Both tacks differ in tactic but not in spirit. They should show that the Catholic vote is a conscience vote.

Wikileaks

In a way, although their respective approaches to the May 13 elections differ slightly, the Bacolod and Lingayen-Dagupan churches join the same crusade against electing candidates who voted for the RH law amid warnings that the measure kowtows to imperialist designs and the reductionist gender politics of liberal capitalism, and that it is basically anti-poor or that it betrays bourgeois condescension toward the poor.

The imperialist roots of RH have been dramatically revealed again lately with the release by the Wikileaks website of confidential United States Department of State electronic mails showing behind-the-scene efforts by the Americans to impose population control on the Philippines and undermine the opposition of the Catholic church to contraception and abortion. The leaked mails date to the 1970’s when US national security adviser and later state secretary Henry Kissinger was giving the finishing touches to what would emerge as the national security ideology, in which every issue—food, health, population—is interpreted within the blinders of state security; this makes national security the Stalinism of the West.

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It is not surprising that rightists and leftists basically found themselves on the same stable during the RH campaign. Suddenly, Marxists and Marxists kuno abandoned their philosophical founders, Marx and Engels, who opposed birth control because it was false consciousness, the wrong solution to the poverty and injustice suffered by the proletariat. It is not surprising that during the RH vote in Congress, some representatives and senators cited population control as a national security issue. They betrayed their neocolonial mindset. In a manner of speaking, the RH law was passed by imperialist stooges.

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