.- Suspended Catholic priest Eddie Panlilio, current governor of the central Philippines province of Pampanga, has decided to run for the country’s presidency in 2010 and to seek dispensation from his priestly obligations.
Speaking at a weekly forum organized by the Catholic Media Network in Manila, Panlilio said he intended to file his candidacy by the November 30 legal deadline.
He remarked that he was ready for “all the consequences, including dispensation from the priesthood,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.
Panlilio was suspended from the priesthood when he sought and won the Pampanga governorship in 2007, defeating a close ally of Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
He said he would formally request dispensation from the Church sometime between August and November, adding that he would want to be reinstated into the priesthood if he loses.
"This priesthood that I love so much, I'm willing to give up for a greater love and that's love for the country," he said.
Archbishop Oscar Cruz, head of the Catholic bishops’ dispensation office, said Panlilio will be released from his priestly obligations the moment Pope Benedict XVI dispenses him.
The archbishop added that the suspended priest should have sought dispensation during his 2007 gubernatorial campaign. He expressed hope Panlilio should seek dispensation because it is “the right thing to do.”
“He will be sparing Catholic voters ... and priests from being divided,” Archbishop Cruz remarked.
According to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Panlilio said he felt “at peace” when he decided to offer himself as a presidential candidate.
“I’m doing this not for me, not for myself. I felt God wanted me to go on a higher service,” he said. “I have said time and again I have no political agenda. There have been groups telling me to run for the presidency and thought I would pray again. After a period of discernment, I said, yeah, God is calling me to run for the presidency.”
If elected, Panlilio said, he would focus on issues such as people’s livelihood, malnutrition, corruption, food sufficiency and insurgency.
Panlilio also had no plans to marry. If he wins the election, he suggested, one of his sisters can serve as the Philippines’ First Lady.