May 12, 2016, 1:27a.m. – CATHOLIC bishops will engage in “vigilant collaboration” with the winners of the May 9 national and local elections, saying the Church would be remiss in its mission if it did not become involved in politics.

In a statement issued right after the polls, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reiterated that the Church’s role was to uphold Christian teachings, not to support a particular set of candidates.

The statement signed by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, was silent on the victory of tough-talking Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who won the presidential election with 39 percent of the vote.

Archbishop Villegas criticized Duterte last December for hurling an expletive at Pope Francis and said a candidate using vulgar language was not leading by example. The prelate also hit back by saying that adultery and the summary killing of criminals, which Duterte openly admits to, were “forms of corruption.” In April, Villegas shared a link to a video of the widely criticized rape joke uttered by the mayor twice during the campaign.

In the post-election statement, Archbishop Villegas insisted that the Church would not retreat from politics.

“Several critical, even spiteful, voices have asked us to desist from interfering in politics. We cannot,” he said. “We do not aspire after office and we have sought none. We do not even impose upon the Catholic faithful a set of anointed candidates. But it would be a denial of Christ’s universal lordship were we to desist from reminding his disciples of what fidelity to him — in all things, including political life — demands.”

“The greatest promise the Church can offer any government is vigilant collaboration, and that offer, we make now. We shall continue to be vigilant so that ever so often we may speak out to teach and to prophesy, to admonish and to correct — for this is our vocation,” the statement added.

Duterte, who says he is no longer a Catholic, obtained the endorsements of two large sects, the Iglesia ni Cristo and the “Kingdom of Jesus Christ” led by a major Duterte benefactor, Apollo Quiboloy. Prior to the polls, Duterte said he did not need Catholic votes to win the presidency. He also challenged bishops to solve the nation’s problems.

Villegas offered to pray for the election winners and urged them to care for children, exploited women, indigenous people, and the poor that have not benefited from economic growth.

“To those who have been voted to office, we assure them of our prayers, principally for wisdom, that they may discern God’s will for his people and courageously do as he bids,” he said.

The CBCP chief urged the losers to find other ways to serve the people. “Surely there are so many other ways to contribute to the building of the Kingdom of God. It is for you to discover your paths, in faith and in docility to God’s spirit,” he said. Lea Mat P. Vicencio


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