Philippine Bishops Urge "People Power" at Ballot Box

Issue a Pastoral Statement as Elections Approach

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MANILA, Philippines, APRIL 22, 2004 ( Philippine bishops in a new pastoral statement are urging voters to choose candidates who will stand up to corruption.

Weeks before the May 10 national elections, 61 bishops emerged Wednesday from a two-day meeting and issued their statement entitled «Nation-Building Through Elections: A Guideline for the Faithful.»

In it they urged voters to discern and choose candidates who show competence, leadership, experience, and integrity, among other things.

The bishops also ask voters to choose candidates who are committed to a vision and program of action in issues such as family and life, the environment, illegal drugs and gambling, justice, peace and order, poverty alleviation, and education.

«It is a time when we can institutionalize further ‘people power’ through the informed and responsible choice of local and national leaders by millions of Filipinos here and abroad,» the bishops noted in a statement published by AsiaNews.

Since the start of the campaign period in February, there has been talk of manipulation of the election results through «massive fraud and unconstitutional measures.» However, the bishops stated their trust that the citizenry, through vigilance and concerted actions, «would be the best guarantee of maintaining honest, orderly and peaceful elections.»

They endorsed citizens groups such as the Church-based Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, the election watchdog NAMFREL, and other organizations working closely with the Commission on Elections.

They also called on the national police, the military and public schoolteachers (who will tally the votes by hand) to maintain a neutral and nonpartisan role in ensuring the electoral process.

«The electoral process is also a time when we can state that we cannot be neutral against corruption in its various forms, for example, vote-buying and vote-selling, taxation by the leftist New People’s Army of political candidates and ordinary citizens, misuse of public funds, etc.,» the bishops wrote.

They added that the «fight against corruption is a Gospel imperative.»

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