The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) warned priests yesterday against involving themselves in temporal politics and threatened to impose sanctions on clerics who persist in publicly supporting their favorite candidates.
CBCP president and Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla said canon law prohibits Catholic ministers from endorsing politicians and parish priests found guilty of violating the injunction will be stripped of their parishes.
"Priests are sources of unity, especially during the Mass. If (a priest) will support any candidate, he will divide the people. The canon law prohibits it," Capalla read from an official statement during a press conference at the Good Shepherd Church in Novaliches, Quezon City.
Capalla made the announcement after the episcopal installation of Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias, who replaced Bishop Teodoro Bacani after he was accused of harassing his secretary.
At the same time, Capalla, who accepted presidential invitation to forge national reconciliation, urged Filipinos to exercise their right to vote on May 10 despite the country’s confused political situation.
"We reiterate the call to the Catholic laity to exercise their Christian responsibility and noble calling to be involved in politics through education in social responsibility, non-partisan poll watching and in the conscientious choice of candidates," Capalla said.
"We have to uphold the constitutional process and the rule of law," the prelate said. "Clean, honest and orderly elections are the hallmarks of a working democracy. There are indeed shortcomings and threats to our democratic way of life."
"But the freedoms we cherish are best safeguarded by a vigilant and informed citizenry during times of election. The opposite scenario would be to recourse to violence, attempted coups and anarchy," the archbishop added.
Capalla said the episcopal organization also exhorted Filipinos to join hands in ensuring the integrity of the ballot in the coming presidential, congressional and local elections.
"We have to work together," he said, lauding the formation of civic groups involved in political education, scrutiny of candidates’ qualifications and poll watching.
"We support the formation and networking of these groups throughout the country. In our own dioceses, we shall encourage local groups and communities to participate critically in these discussions," he said.
The archbishop also called on the Catholic faithful to apply their own values and attitudes in working toward honest and orderly elections.
"We have to believe our own power to transform society. Clean and meaningful elections and transformed society depend on ordinary people and on each one of us. we start with our own values and attitudes," Capalla said.