December 31, 2015, 3:01p.m. – CATHOLICS should vote for candidates who will uphold moral values and protect religious freedom, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Wednesday.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, said ‘perfect candidates’ are not determined by opinion surveys.

“The Catholic cannot make his or her choice depending on who is topping or trailing in the polls or surveys,” Villegas said in a pastoral letter last Dec. 30. “There is a vocation to authenticity: the Spirit-inspired courage and determination to make decisions for ourselves, setting ourselves free from the ‘trends’ and the ‘herds.'”

Thus, voters must choose candidates who seek to uphold the Church’s teachings and refuse to vote candidates who wish to defy them. In particular voters should reject those who want to remove religion from society, he said.

“The Catholic voter cannot lend his support to any candidate whose ideology binds him or her to make of the Philippines a secular state,” Villegas said. “Similarly, a Catholic voter cannot support a candidate whose programs include initiatives opposed to Church moral teachings on such vital issues as abortion, euthanasia, the return of the death penalty, divorce and the dilution of the character of Christian marriage.”

Villegas also warned against politicians using government resources to promote their candidacies.

“We warn against the use of government resources, the power of government offices, and subtler forms of coercion and intimidation to promote the chances of a particular candidate,” Villegas said.

Moreover, candidates who spend time attacking fellow candidates have nothing beneficial to offer to the public, the CBCP chief said.

“A candidate who [has] spent his time demolishing the reputation of fellow candidates must be suspect. He debases the level of political discourse by calling attention to shortcomings of his rivals, rather than on [his] programs and projects,” he said.

Catholics may vote for non-Catholic candidates worthy of public office, he clarified.

“A Catholic is not closed to the candidacy of a non-Catholic.  In fact, there are worthy candidates from other Christian communities and other religions.  Their qualifications and aspirations must be given serious heed by our Catholic voters, their truly helpful plans and visions must be supported,” Villegas said.


Church neutral

Villegas reiterated that the Church would always remain neutral on Catholics’ choice of leaders.

“We (bishops) commit to desist from any action or statement that may give the appearance of persuading the faithful to vote for a particular candidate,” Villegas said.

“Reject claims by candidates that they are candidates of the CBCP, or of a diocese, or of a particular bishop. Church doctrine has remained consistent: Partisanship is an arena into which the Church should not venture,” Villegas added. Gabriel M. Agcaoili


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