'Church can't remain on sidelines': Radyo Veritas launches 2022 election initiative

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
'Church can't remain on sidelines': Radyo Veritas launches 2022 election initiative
In this 2020 photo, devotees attend the first Friday of the month Mass at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Church-run Radyo Veritas on Thursday launched its 2022 election campaign that seeks a return of "morality and ethics" in governing a country where most identify as Catholic but many also remain impoverished.

Fr. Jerome Secillano said the "One Godly Vote" campaign will urge the electorate to make both among the standards of measuring candidates. 

"Legal and secular principles alone are not sufficient in addressing our country's ills," said Secillano, the campaign's convenor. "As it now stands, there is a great deal of leaving morality and ethics out of the public sphere."

The priest, who is a Radyo Veritas anchor, is also executive secretary of the public affairs committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

He said the campaign would reach out to Catholic and non-Catholic voters, and would analyze pressing issues in the country through tapping experts in different fields. 

"[Filipinos] should not compromise their votes. They should shun money, they should not be cowed by intimidation," Secillano said, "they should not be swayed by empty, shallow and outrageous promises, and they need to hold on to the sacredness of their vote as if their choice is God’s choice to lead us to our future."

Not endorsement

Secillano, however, sought to make clear that the move is not geared towards an eventual support to particular candidates by the Philippine clergy, nor is it led by the CBCP.

The Catholic Church does not back bets unlike religious sects or groups in the country, and instead has always urged discernment among its faithful.

In 1986, Jaime Cardinal Sin of Manila did not officially endorse Corazon Aquino against then Ferdinand Marcos. But the towering figure in the revolt remarked the snap elections then was the "most crucial in the nation's history."

Secillano said society now seems to have embraced "the absence of the rule of law, disregard for basic human rights, dearth of morality and decency."

That remark, while with no particular reference, reflects the Church's position on controversial issues under the present administration — from President Rodrigo Duterte's "war on drugs," to his tirades on his critics including those within the clergy.

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"[The Church] cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for human dignity, human rights, social justice and equality," Secillano added.  

New media

The convenor of the initiative said they will utilize media platforms to bring information to voters, considering movement restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Secillano said it would include candidates' stand on issues, support for existing policies and proposed legislations, and a debate among the bets. 

Next year's elections are slated on May 9, with more than 61 million registered voters so far. 

Similar to Sin's remark in 1986, that in 2022 would prove to be another crucial one yet for the country battling one of Southeast Asia's worst virus outbreaks.

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