BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — The Diocese of Bacolod vowed to follow the order of the Comelec to resize its tarpaulin bearing the names of senatorial candidates, it classified as Team Buhay and Team Patay, but clarified that it was “not a campaign material” but a “freedom of expression” on the Church’s anti-Reproductive Health (RH) law campaign.
Father Felix Pasquin, rector and vicar forane of the San Sebastian Cathedral, told The Freeman in a phone interview the other day, that the diocese is now cutting the tarpaulin, measuring 6 feet by 10 feet, into two, each measuring 2 feet by 3 feet, to comply with the Comelec order prohibiting oversized campaign materials.
There shall be two tarpaulins, one bearing “Team Buhay” and another bearing “Team Patay” list of senatoriables, Pasquin said. “The hanging of tarpaulin in our own private property should be covered by a broader constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression and conscience, and not by the limited rules and regulation of the Comelec,” he however said.
“The main message of the Diocese of Bacolod is not really about the candidates in the May 2013 elections but about the rejection of the RH law, which the Diocese finds anti-life, anti-marriage, anti-family and inimical to the future of the nation,” said Pasquin.
Last Feb. 22, on the same day of the Team PNoy sortie in Bacolod and three other cities in Negros Occidental, the Diocese had posted a huge tarpaulin on the façade of San Sebastian Cathedral bearing the list of senatorial aspirants categorized as Team Buhay, or those anti-RH, and Team Patay, those pro-RH, supposedly to guide voters in the May elections.
San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito Estrada of UNA, who was among those listed in Team Buhay, said in a press statement: “I am grateful to the Diocese of Bacolod for endorsing my senatorial bid to the Catholic faithful. Rest assured that I will do my best to uphold the right to life of unborn children if I get elected in the Senate.”
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño, independent bet who was listed in Team Patay, however was dismayed over the Church’s action, saying the tag was unfair, since his stand on the RH law was based on his concern for the life and health of women and children. “The RH law will educate Filipino families to become more sensitive to the challenges of parenthood and caring for a child. Is this what they call anti-life?” he asked.
“I urge the Diocese to also take as equally important basis the candidate’s advocacy for human rights, land reform, living wage, peace talks, anti-destructive mining, anti-death penalty and anti-political dynasty. On these issues, I and the Catholic Church can find common causes,” Casiño said.
Comelec-Negros Occidental provincial election supervisor Will Arceño said he instructed Comelec-Bacolod election registrar Mavil Majarucon-Sia to immediately inform the Diocese that the “controversial poster” violates election laws, adding that the church advocacy may be okay but the poll body could not tolerate an oversized poster.
Bishop Vicente Navara had confirmed they received the letter from the Comelec requesting the removal of the tarpaulin, and that the Church will do something about it.
Pasquin also denied insinuation that the Diocese had sabotaged the Team PNoy rally, considering that the poster was put up at the facade of the cathedral, fronting the Bacolod public plaza where the political event was held. It was purely coincidental, he said.
Pasquin further said the Diocese will continue hanging the tarpaulins of Team Buhay and Team Patay until election day, while it organizes a weekly Saturday forum for all its lay people and ministries about the pro-life campaign and on various election issues to be culminated with a “mammoth rally” sometime in April. (FREEMAN)