The Arrogance and Death of the Catholic Vote in the Philippines

By N Mark Castro

IT all began in San Sebastian Cathedral, where the Diocese of Bacolod City decided with sheer arrogance to meddle in the affairs of the state by posting the “Team Buhay” (Pro-Life) and “Team Patay” (Anti Life) candidates, with a clear indication as to which politician and which party list it was supporting.

Seeing a clear violations on the separation of the Church and the State, not to mention its violations of early campaigning, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) ordered the immediate removal of said billboard | tarpaulin from the said premises.

But to add serious irony in the issue that has so divided the Catholic country, the Diocese of Bacolod instead appealed to the Supreme Court of the Philippine to declare the Comelec order as unconstitutional and void.

The petitioners — the Diocese of Bacolod — asked the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the respondents — Comelec and Bacolod election officer Mavil V. Majarucon-Sia, from enforcing their orders to remove the tarpaulins.

The Church maintained that the Comelec orders were unconstitutional because these infringed on the petitioners’ freedom of expression and violated the principle of separation of Church and State.

Imagine the gall.

“[The] Petitioners’ position against the RH Law is not only a matter of exercise of its freedom of expression and of conscience but is also a matter of Catholic faith, morals, belief, and of duty,” they said in their petition.

On February 22, Majarucon-Sia issued a notice asking the petitioners to remove the tarpaulins because these were oversized in violation of the Comelec regulations on campaign materials in private properties.

When the diocese did not comply with the notice, the Comelec legal department director Esmeralda Amora-Ladra issued an order on February 27, asking Navarra to remove the tarpaulin immediately or be charged with an election offense.

But the petitioners claimed that in issuing the orders, the respondents committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

Imagine that.

Still, the forgiving government and the public simply urged the Catholic Church to do away with its blatant disregard for the rule of law.

After having lost in its bid to beat the passage of the RH Bill into becoming a Law, the Catholic Church defiantly collided with the government and decided to use the same law into violating the COMELEC provisions. Worse, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) secretary general Msgr. Joselito Asis on Thursday insisted there is nothing wrong with the “Team Patay vs Team Buhay” poster in a Bacolod City church.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) … an altogether different dog with a different collar.

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Yet riding high on its perceived mandate from Almighty God, it continues to ignore calls for reform within its ranks.

And to further its hubris, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has decided to use its vaunted tool in laying thick its orders: the threat of spiritual and earthly punishment.

The CBCP warned PRO RH candidates of the so-called precious Catholic Vote.

Amid the dissenting opinion of various groups that the Catholic vote does not exist, an election lawyer said the unified vote of the Catholic electorate may greatly influence the turnout of the upcoming midterm polls.

In his talk at the Katolikong Pinoy recollection held at the San Carlos Seminary Lay Formation Center Chapel, Atty. Romulo Macalintal said unity among Catholic voters can change the traditional and personality politics ruling the country.

Ang mga kandidatong hindi marunong sumunod sa pinag-uutos ng Diyos ay dapat nating iwasan sapagkat sila ang sisira sa moralidad ng kabataan,” Macalintal said. “Panahon na upang maipadama natin sa lahat na mayroong Catholic vote na ang ibig sabihin ay karamihan sa ating mga Katoliko ay nagkakasundo sa mga panuntunan ng simbahan kung sino ang dapat nating iboto.

“These candidates who do not wish to obey the commandments of God should be avoided because they will destroy the morality of our youths,” Macalintal said. “It’s time we make everyone feel that there is a Catholic Vote, which means that the majority of us are Catholics and are in agreement with the rules of the Church as to who we should vote.”

But when the election results came in, it’s as if the Philippine Catholic Church had been slapped by the voting public.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who had publicly endorsed candidates  who fought against the reproductive health (RH) law, on Tuesday said he was not at all happy with the outcome of the elections—most of the senatorial candidates in the winning circle supported the controversial measure.

“I am not happy,” Arguelles told the Inquirer in a text message, adding he was resigned to the idea that the country “is not yet ready for better things.”

Meanwhile, back in Bacolod City, the “Team Buhay” that the Church had so blatantly campaigned for had little impact whatsoever. Three candidates on the “Team Patay” list of the Bacolod diocese were among the top winners in the Senate races in the province, initial poll results showed. They were also the top winners in the entire country.

Imagine that.

About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the chief political communications strategist for PT AsiaLeads, a political and communications policy-making body based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is also the Executive Director at the Southeast Asia Consulting Group, an investment advisory company assisting clients roll out their presence for the ASEAN Economic Integration in partnership with government. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on May 16, 2013, in General, Politics, Religion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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