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CBCP urges voters to snub pro-divorce, death penalty bets


The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Tuesday urged voters not to support candidates in the 2016 elections who are pushing for divorce, death penalty and other measures that it said are against the Church's doctrines.

CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas, in a statement titled "Wise as serpents, innocent as doves," issued some guidelines for Catholic voters to follow in choosing their candidates in 2016.

According to Villegas, a Catholic voter should not support a candidate "whose legislative or executive programs include initiatives diametrically opposed to Church moral teachings on such vital issues as abortion, euthanasia, the return of the death penalty, divorce and the dilution of the character of Christian marriage."

Catholic voters should also not support a candidate "who vows to wipe out religion from public life."

"While we expect every public officer to give life to the constitutional posture of 'benevolent neutrality' in respect to the attitude of the State towards religion, the Catholic voter cannot and should not lend his support to any candidate whose ideology binds him or her to make of the Philippines a secular state that has no tolerance for religion in its public life," Villegas said.

No endorsement from Church

He also urged the voters to reject candidates who claim they have the support of the CBCP, their diocese or of a particular bishop.

Villegas noted that Filipino voters should not believe on the claims of candidates that their bids for public office are backed by members of the clergy.

"It has never been the practice of the Catholic Church to hold out a candidate to the faithful as the 'chosen' candidate of the Church," he said. "Church doctrine has remained consistent: Partisanship is an arena into which the Church should not venture."

For their part, Villegas said bishops will "commit to desist from any action or statement that may give the appearance of persuading the faithful to vote for a particular candidate."

"While bishops, as citizens of the Republic, have the right to make their own choices, our office in the Church as well as our stature, of which we are all unworthy, urge upon us that circumspection that should prevent misunderstanding and confusion among our flock," he said.

"There are no perfect candidates"

At the same time, the Lingayen-Dagupan prelate reminded the people to assess candidates "according to the model of Christ, who came to serve, not to be served."

"They must look for the realization of Gospel values in the lives, words and deeds of those desirous of public office, realizing that there are no perfect candidates," Villegas said.

There is a crucial difference between one who has been wrong in the past and is willing to amend his ways, and one who exhibits stubbornness and obstinacy,” he added.

Non-Catholic candidates

Villegas also urged the voters to consider political aspirants from other religions.

"A Catholic is not closed to the candidacy of a non-Catholic," he said. "In fact, there are worthy candidates from other Christian communities and other religions."

"Their qualifications and aspirations must be given serious heed by our Catholic voters, their truly helpful plans and visions must be supported,” Villegas said.

He added that the public should not trust candidates that spent their time demolishing the reputation and tarnishing the good name of fellow candidates.

"He may have nothing positive to offer, and he debases the level of political discourse by calling attention to the shortcomings of his rivals and competitors, rather than on the programs and projects he or she might have," Villegas said.?

Villegas also warned against the "use of government resources, the power of government offices and instrumentalities and subtler forms of coercion and intimidation to promote the chances of a particular candidate."

Meanwhile, Villegas appealed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ensure that the May 2016 polls will be truthful and honest. —KBK, GMA News

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