Prelates Urge Filipinos to Vote in Conscience

Nation to Elect President on Monday

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TANDAG, Philippines, MAY 6, 2010 ( The president of the Philippine episcopal conference is urging voters to follow their consciences when they head to the booths next week, and to be patient with the nation’s first use of an electronic voting system.

A Tuesday statement from Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag acknowledged the deep flaws in the Philippine election process, but also pointed to signs of hope. Filipinos will be choosing a president, vice president, a large portion of Congress, and all local officials.

The prelate listed «dehumanizing» factors, including unheeded electoral laws, violations on campaign spending, vote buying, intimidation and violence.

«Prices of votes have even gone up as voters demand higher prices or favors,» he observed. «All these require money and — alas! — many sources of funds are either illegal or have strings attached to them.»

Bishop Odchimar lamented that many voters «still go about haphazardly in forming their consciences» and many voices «often stifle the voice of conscience.»

As if these social factors weren’t enough, the election also stands on shaky ground because of problems with the new electronic voting system. Initial tests showed malfunctions and now there is a repair campaign hurriedly under way.

Pray and work

Nevertheless, the leader of the episcopal conference also listed the «spaces of hope» and affirmed: «We are a nation learning to pray and work for social transformation.»

He made a call to voters: «Let us choose the way of God during elections by choosing good and rejecting evil, even the lesser evil. Listening to one’s conscience is the starting point for infusing Christian morality and spirituality into the electoral process.»

The prelate also had an exhortation for the candidates: «Be truly God-fearing and shun vote buying even if it costs you votes. […] Be magnanimous winners and gracious losers, ready to work together for the common good after elections.»

This last recommendation comes as the front-runner — the son of a former president who was installed by a «people power» movement — claims there will be an uprising from that same movement if he is not proclaimed the winner.

Bishop Odchimar offered as a final word a recommendation to «shun short cuts.»

«Let us give our ‘yes’ to conscience, to constitution, and to Christ as we engage in a politics of patience, humility, and hope,» he said. «Only a solidarity of consciences will enable us to see a ‘new heaven and a new earth.'»

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