Filipino Bishops Ask Catholics to Run in Elections

Denounce Societal Violence, Killings

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MANILA, Philippines, JULY 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Filipino bishops’ conference issued a statement calling for Catholics to act now to ensure just, honest national elections, and to run for office if possible.

The «Pastoral Statement on Lay Participation in Politics and Peace,» released Monday, was signed by the conference president, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro.

It emphasized two tasks that «require the efforts of the whole Church but especially the active participation of the laity»: peace building and social change.

It pointed out several challenges in the current political scene, noting that the country’s elections «have always been tainted with dishonesty since we became an independent nation.»

The conference acknowledged the common belief that «politics as practiced in our country is a structure of evil,» and expressed concern about the «crippling apathy and cynicism» seen in the youth.

It called for a renewal in the commitment to «work for change and bring hope.»

In this light, the bishops called on «competent persons of integrity» to get involved in the political scene and «become candidates for political election.»

They underlined the «right» and «duty» of laity «to campaign for candidates they believe to be competent, honest, and public-service minded in order to reform our country.»

Safeguard

The statement appealed to parishes, schools and individual citizens to cooperate in «safeguarding the integrity and sacredness of the ballot.»

The elections next year are scheduled to choose a new president, vice president, senators, house representatives and provincial and local officials for the country.

The prelates highlighted the Church’s commitment to educate consciences on the political issues by promoting Catholic social teachings.

They underlined the Church’s opposition to «any attempt by congress to convert itself into a constituent assembly» to change the national constitution.

After discussing the upcoming 2010 elections, the conference also included a mention of the «lingering problem of human rights abuses» in the country, calling for lay people to work proactively for peace.

«Our situation of un-peace» is «disturbing and even tragic,» it stated.

The statement cited the «more than 50 bombings in Central and Southern Mindanao over the past year that have caused senseless deaths and created insecurity, if not terror.»

Deplorable situation

It continued: «Ambushes, kidnappings, extortions, and ‘revolutionary taxes’ are taking place without any end in sight.

«Unexplained killings and disappearances of journalists, labor, peasant and political leaders, and even of petty criminals take place apparently with impunity as only few perpetrators are brought to justice. Torture and fear tactics are being perpetrated.»

The prelates affirmed, «Deeply saddened and bothered by this deplorable situation we cannot remain silent.»

They underlined the government’s responsibility to bring justice to the perpetrators, no matter the «sector of society they may come from.»

The conference appealed to the authorities to «find solutions that would lead to lasting peace, thus preventing further violence, death and displacement of innocent people.»

In particular, they encouraged negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The statement also urged religious leaders to continue «bringing out any abuse and to untiringly teach our people about the commandments on killings, lying and stealing.»

It concluded by encouraging all people to «follow the path of peace,» through «dialogue and openness.»

The conference added, «This means the path of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.»

The statement was issued after a plenary assembly of the bishops, held Sunday and Monday in Manila.

New officers were elected for the conference, and Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag will take the office of president on Dec. 1.

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