Filipino Catholics launch movement for ‘righteous elections’

Election vote ballot box Credit roibu  Shutterstock null/ roibu / Shutterstock.

Faith-based and civil society groups in the Philippines have launched a movement that aims to work for “clean, accurate, responsible and transparent” elections in the country next year.

The groups dubbed the movement “Honorable Elections 2022,” a coalition of more than 20 Church and civic groups that committed themselves to ensure “righteous elections.”

Among the group’s main activities is to campaign for voter registration, voters’ education, and monitoring of polling precincts during the elections.

“We need to share the burden of managing and administering the electoral exercise with the Commission on Elections,” said Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, in a report on the news site of the bishops’ conference.

The prelate, who heads Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the country's Catholic bishops, stressed the need “to help fill gaps in the entire process” by helping explain how automated systems work, “and reinforce trust and confidence now at an all time low in elections.”

He said the electoral process consists of several stages that citizens should understand and involve themselves with “dynamism and courage.”

The bishop called on the lay faithful to familiarize themselves with the process and know how each stage in the voting chain contributes to transparent and honest elections.

 “We have this special responsibility in times of serious moral, economic, health, food security, livelihood and leadership crisis,” said Bishop Bagaforo.

“Apathy and indifference are unforgivable and jeopardize our democracy and help perpetuate Godless values,” he said.

Aside from Caritas Philippines, the coalition includes the bishops' commissions on indigenous peoples and youth; the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines; Council of the Laity of the Philippines; and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines.

Other coalition members are the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals; De La Salle Brothers Philippines; Network for Justice and Compassion; People Empowerment via Transformative Electoral Reforms; Philippine Misereor Partnership; Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan; Bawat Isa Mahalaga; The Faith Initiative, and Radio Veritas846.

Father Antonio Labiao, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, expressed hope that the coming together of various groups will lead to a continuing communal discernment and action.

“We are doing this for the sake of our country and to protect the sacredness of our votes,” said the priest. “I hope that we elect leaders whom we can rely on for real peace, justice and for life in this country."

Early in September, the Catholic Church-run Radyo Veritas 846 launched its 2022 election campaign that seeks a return of "morality and ethics" in governance.

A report on Philippine Star quoted Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs office of the bishops' conference, saying that the "One Godly Vote" campaign will try to convince voters to make “morality and ethics” the standards in choosing candidates. 

"Legal and secular principles alone are not sufficient in addressing our country's ills," the report quoted the priest as saying.

"As it now stands, there is a great deal of leaving morality and ethics out of the public sphere."

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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," said Fr. Secillano.

"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."

Philippine elections are known to be dominated by "guns, goons, and gold" due to the use of money, threats, and even physical attacks to buy or win votes.

During the 2019 midterm elections, at least 20 people were killed in election-related incidents on polling day alone and 43 incidents of election violence.

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