Atty. Aurora A. Santiago
Duc in Altum
ASSUMING that the May 13, 2013 election was clean, honest, orderly, peaceful, and reflects the true sentiment of the Filipino electorate and that the PCOS machines had honestly captured the votes of the Filipino voters, one can say that there is really a Catholic Vote.
Several lay church organizations listened and followed the pastoral exhortation of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines or CBCP that lay initiative must see to it that the May 13 elections will truly reflect the conscience vote of the Filipinos.
As everyone knows, the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas or Laiko (Council of the Laity of the Philippines) initiated the White Vote Movement or WVM, a coalition of archdiocesan and diocesan councils of the laity and national lay organizations with the vision of preserving and protecting the Filipino family and life.
WVM endorsed senatorial candidates who are so committed and determined to fight DEATH bills—Divorce, Euthanasia or mercy killing, Abortion, Total Population Control, Homosexual or same sex union—which are pending or may be filed in Congress. WVM had to personally interview the candidates and discern who among them will be endorsed. WVM must get the first hand information about the candidates’ stand on DEATH bills and the RH Law.
Catholic vote was present when 6 of the 10 senatorial candidates endorsed by WVM landed in the Magic 12. Congratulations to Senators-elect Nancy Binay, Koko Pimentel, Sonny Trillanes, Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito-Estrada and Gregorio Honasan.
Catholic vote was present when 2 of the WVM endorsed candidates landed in the 13th and 14th place, pro-RH Sen. Loren Legarda slid to the 2nd place, Risa Hontiveros lost, Buhay partylist top the sectoral representation.
By the way, the WVM did not endorse local candidates—partylist, members of the House of Representatives, provincial, city and municipal officials—due to lack of time to study and discern which and who to endorse.
In its post evaluation of the May 13 elections, WVM acknowledged that it could have done better had they surpassed some problems among which are: Limited time to disseminate information about WVM and its endorsed senatorial candidates. Some media practitioners are not with the WVM. Some lay church organizations are prohibited from endorsing candidates. Some clergy favored endorsement of candidates, others did not. Some priests allowed the display of names of endorsed candidates, others did not. The need to reach out to the grassroots level was not achieved because the parish pastoral councils, bishops or priests did not allow the distribution of the names of endorsed candidates.
WVM vows to continue its work up to 2016 election. To be more successful, there is a need to strengthen the membership of the organization. The relationship between the clergy and the laity must be improved. The clergy must support and enable the lay initiative. The laity should convince the bishops and priests to actively support the lay organizations in their discernment and endorsement of candidates for elective positions. There is a need for formation of leaders, members and the parishioners about the social doctrines and the Catholic teachings of the Church; modules must be prepared.
The WVM had been saying, “a divided vote changes nothing, a united vote changes everything.” Transformative change can be achieved if only the electorate would unite to vote for the candidates who are competent, conscientious, and have commitment.
It was reported that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines President and Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma acknowledged that the existence of Catholic vote “was felt and seen in the mid-term elections.” Several groups which went on discernment as whom to vote also acknowledged the importance of being Catholics. Archbishop Palma said that he joins the exhortation that the lay people “should do the process of discernment, serious study and of course coming out with sharing their convictions with other lay people” in the coming 2016 elections.” He further stated that “there is a need for improvement asking convenors of lay initiatives to do further studies, discernment and preparations based from experiences and studies of the recent elections.”
Good news for the Filipinos. There is a possibility that Pope Francis may visit the Philippines in 2016 during the celebration of the Eucharistic Congress. Vatican asked the CBCP President Archbishop Jose Palma if the celebration could be moved from May to January 2016, it appearing that Pope Francis has already a pre-scheduled activity in May 2016. This is a good sign that Vatican is considering a papal visit in the Philippines in 2016. Archbishop Palma said there is no problem in changing the date of the celebration. He urged the Catholic faithful to pray for the visit of the Holy Father.