PRESS ROOM

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A PASTORAL LETTER TO THE FILIPINO ELECTORATE

 

A PASTORAL LETTER TO THE FILIPINO ELECTORATE

 

April  16,  2016

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

 

Greetings in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

  1. We write to you during the Easter Season – the celebration of the victorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. We celebrate Easter because the risen Christ has saved us and led us to freedom just as the Exodus people were led to freedom. Peter makes us appreciate more fully the meaning of the resurrection: “Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10). Jesus Christ brought us to his freedom just as God reminded Jeremiah that  the deliverance of the people of Israel from bondage was for them  to be his people and he their God (Jer. 11: 1 – 5). Paul likewise reminds us against submitting again to the yoke of slavery in all its forms asserting that “for freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1).

 

Intricately linked with the resurrection of Jesus Christ are his sovereignty  and humility. As a sovereign he exacts justice yet is quick to grant mercy. As a sovereign his greatness lay in his profound humility to declare that “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 21:27). Paul has reconciled Christ’s sovereignty and humility saying that Jesus Christ, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant… And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death… therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2: 5 – 9).

 

  1. It is within the context of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His sovereignty and humility that we write to address an important issue that concerns us Filipinos as well as the islands that compose what we call our country. This is the forthcoming May Presidential Elections.
  2. In statements we have issued in the past, we have called for prayers for clean, peaceful and honest elections. With the call to prayer was our bidding that we be guided properly by our conscience in the choice of leaders. Today, as we re-iterate this call to prayer, we wish to remind ourselves that much is to be desired in the electoral process in our country.

 

  1. Elections are occasions for the people to exercise their sovereignty. Elected officials are empowered by the electorate and therefore owe it to no one but the people to serve. In the conduct of elections, however, we are far from reaching this constitutional ideal. Electoral reforms have turned from bad to worse, as family dynasties hold their sway. Even the party-list system has been robbed of its real intent in such a way that less than a handful  represent the marginalized sectors in a genuine way.

 

  1. The automated electoral system brought more problems than it promised to resolve in the actual conduct of the voting process. Since machines took over the manual voting and appreciation of ballots, serious questions have been raised and continue to be raised about how transparent the machine is. Related to the concern of transparency is the vulnerability of the machines. But far more serious is the concern that the COMELEC has seriously compromised the sovereign act of the people not only by contracting a commercial company but also by  failing to address the issues raised.  We find those issues valid. For instance, we find it strange that instead of addressing those issues and implementing the automated election system (AES) law, the COMELEC would instead reason out that the issuance of voter receipts would entail so much time and subject the voters to the vulnerability of vote-buying. We find it also odd that COMELEC would even raise scenarios like the possibility of postponement or worse no elections. The COMELEC is not performing its mandate not only to ensure that the elections are conducted but also   conducted with integrity. If only for the ambiguity and apparent lack of trust in the AES others have proposed alternatives such as returning to the old practice of manual counting or a hybrid system of combining the manual and electronic processes. As we have often stated in the past, the elections are a major way for political change if done in a genuinely free manner without cheating, vote buying and selling, and without the usual peddling of false promises and the hypocrisy during the campaign period.

 

  1. For and in the forthcoming elections, we issue the following appeals:

 

i. The COMELEC should obey and implement the AES Law rather than mouth crude justifications and offering scenarios simply to circumvent the law or to cover their failure to implement the same. We laud the vigilance of our people who are adept or experts on the automated election system for raising legitimate concerns and for raising public consciousness;

ii. We appeal to Christians to unite and conduct electoral education in our communities. The issues before us are complex and the conduct of electoral education as individual churches or in an ecumenical manner contributes immensely in the way the voters shall make their choice. To be sure, churches and other well meaning agencies  have developed their own modules. We commend the electoral module prepared by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines as an alternative should there be none or as a complementary material to those locally produced.

iii. Finally, we appeal to the voters at large not to sell their votes. To sell votes is a violation and an act disrespectful of the sanctity of the ballot and of your right to vote. Sacred right and duty is supposed to be matched by a discerning mind. Considering the disheartening conduct of candidates early on in the campaign period, we should not be dissuaded from pursuing a politics of change and for change even if it looks like a long shot or even an almost impossibility. Great events that transformed the world started in whispers. That includes the faith we hold. What is whispered, we shout from the mountain tops to the plains and vice versa.

 

The peace of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – be with you all.

 

Signed and issued on the 18th day of April 2016.

 

 

 

 

BISHOP ELMER M. BOLOCON

Executive Secretary

                                                

BISHOP DEOGRACIAS S. INIGUEZ, JR., D.D.

Co-chairperson

 

THE RT. REVD. FELIXBERTO L. CALANG

Co-chairperson

 

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