Philippines bishops’ guide for 2016 general elections – full text

WISE AS SERPENTS, INNOCENT AS DOVES

(Mt.10:16)

A Guide to Catholic Voters

As the rhetoric and the noise traditionally associated with Philippine politics and elections reach higher levels of intensity, we wish to offer some guidelines to our Catholic voters deriving from the moral teachings of the Church.

1. Reject claims by candidates that they are candidates of the CBCP, or of a diocese, or of a particular bishop. 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. Church doctrine has remained consistent: Partisanship is an arena into which the Church should not venture.

2. We your bishops 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.

3. The desired qualities of leaders as well as the political options open to the people are proper subjects of the collective discernment of the members of our lay Catholic communities and associations, as long as these take place in the context of prayer, a careful reading of the Scriptures in the light of the Church’s teaching, a sense of fairness and concern for the common good.

4. The Catholic voter must evaluate 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. 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.

5. Surveys and polls show trends, and they are as limited as the methodology that is used to conduct them. The Catholic therefore cannot make his or her choice depend on who is topping or trailing in the polls and surveys. There is a vocation to authenticity: the Spirit-inspired courage and determination to make decisions for ourselves, setting ourselves free from “trends” and “herds”, to do what is right and to choose who is right!

6. A Catholic cannot 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.

7. Similarly, a Catholic voter cannot, in good conscience, 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.

8. A Catholic is not closed to the candidacy of a non-Catholic. 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.

9. A candidate who has thus far spent his time demolishing the reputation and tarnishing the good name of fellow candidates must be suspect. 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.

10. We warn 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. It is God’s will to provide his people with shepherds after His merciful heart!

Finally, we appeal to COMELEC to insure that all the security measures mandated by the Automated Election Law be implemented diligently. The credibility of the elections and the stability of our democracy is at risk if the security and sanctity of the every ballot is compromised.
As Christians we will align ourselves not with powers like Herod who trembled at the news that the King had been born. We shall, like the wise men, choose a different route, guided by intimations of the Gospel, and so do our part, in response to God’s initiative, to make all things new!

See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, December 30, 2015

CBCP 2015 Archbishop Villegas NJ Viehland

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

Why every Christian must exercise right to vote – CBCP President

Elections and the duty of every Christian

By Archbishop Socrates Villegas

CSMS anthem by NJ Viehland

It is not difficult to feel the election fever — even if the 2016 elections are still so (many) months away. It has always been complained that the efforts of the Church and other non-political groups to educate voters come too late. It is the reason for this letter, this early — so that it may never be again said that we spoke too late.

The exercise of the right of suffrage is not only a political right. It is also a moral obligation. For the Christian it is one of the most meaningful and effective means of contributing to the flourishing of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice, peace and love. And so while politicians plan and strategize, and, this early, find ways of circumventing the law against premature campaigning, the Church cannot be remiss in its obligation of forming the consciences of Catholic and Christian voters.

Vote for the right reasons. Vote, not because you have been paid, or promised bounty, not because you or your relatives have been promised employment or privilege but because you trust a person to lead the community and to lead the country. Just as the discerning voter will not be easily won over by all the flattery in favor of one candidate, neither should a voter allow ‘demolition jobs’ to dissuade him from choosing a person who is truly fit for office.

Reject the notoriously corrupt, but neither should one readily jump on the bandwagon of condemnation in the absence of incontrovertible evidence, for, these days, one’s reputation, so painstakingly built by sincerity and honesty over the years, can so easily be tarnished by the truly evil work of “spin-doctors” in the payroll of one or the other political aspirant!

End political dynasties. Do not vote for family members running for the same positions as family members before them to perpetrate the family’s hold on public office. When it is clear that one politician clings to public office, seeking election to some other position after he has run the length of the permissible number of terms in one elective office, the Christian voter should prudently choose others who may have equal if not superior abilities and competencies for the position. There is no monopoly on ability for government, and truly no one in government is indispensable!

Ask the right questions as basis of your selection among candidates. Do not demand to know of a congressman or a senator what his or her local projects have been. Legislators are not supposed to have local projects. They are supposed to legislate, to attend congressional sessions, rise to debate and actively take part in committee hearings. Ask, rather, whether or not they have attended the sessions of the Lower House or of the Senate diligently and regularly. On the other hand, do not make ‘kapit sa taas’ a criterion for the choice of local elective officials, because a local official leads by his own charisma and leadership skills. We reject a government by patronage!

A person who aspires for high office but who, because of inexperience, will be totally dependent on advisers is not the best possible candidate for national positions, but we should be willing to repose trust on those who, we are convinced, are capable of leading and of serving with probity, high above suspicion and with skill, competence and wisdom that comes from abiding faith. That a person is a firm believer, and that he or she practices her faith should be a crucial consideration for the Catholic voter.

Every vote a Christian casts is not only an instance of the exercise of those liberties and rights we have as free citizens. Because the Kingdom of God is God’s gift, inaugurated, as Lumen Gentium teaches, in the world by the life, ministry, death and Resurrection of Jesus, The Lord, we are commissioned to do what is within our ability to make God’s Kingdom a living experience for all of his people. And a vote wisely and virtuously cast is a fulfillment of that commission!

CBCP 2015 Archbishop Villegas NJ Viehland

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

Pope Francis in Asia – Asians look forward to Pope Francis’ visit, healing

Papal Visit 2015 Letran NJ Viehland Photos

Children playing street ball said they will watch Pope Francis ride around nearby Manila Cathedral on Jan. 16

 

MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Pope Francis returns to Asia this week, where crises are priming the ground for the kind of church he is working to grow.

“Francis’ dream of a church that is bruised and wounded and muddied is what the church in Asia wishes to be,” said Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Philippines, who for years led the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, or FABC, and who was named a cardinal by Pope Francis last year.

Read full report 

Sri Lanka election over but political war awaits – Hector Welgampola

Sri Lanka's new President Maithripala Sirisena screenshot Sri Lanka Mirror Facebook

Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena screenshot Sri Lanka Mirror Facebook

Commentary: Lanka’s new president won the electoral battle, but the political war awaits

By: Hector Welgampola

With political alacrity, Sri Lankans have voted in a new president thwarting an incumbent’s plan for an unprecedented third term seen as a move to further entrench dynastic power. The cosmic speed of behind-the-scene events before and after the Jan. 8 election took many by surprise.

Was President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to quit midway through vote-counting a final act of magnanimity or a crafty move to ensure his political future? Where does it leave the kitchen cabinet of siblings and son, who continue to hold office? Before returning to his native village, Rajapaksa had a final tete-a-tete with soon-to-be prime minster Ranil Wickremesinghe, a longtime friend, though vintage political antagonist. What transpired remains unknown. Only history or future political memoirs will divulge the mystery of the Rajapaksa exit.

Some insights may be discerned from newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena’s speedy decision to be sworn-in within hours of his victory. The ceremony was simple but rich in symbolism. In order to counter witness to the lavish presidential lifestyle of the past, the Gandhian new president had instructed his staff to restrict his inauguration expenses to fifty dollars. He took the oath of office in the presence of a Tamil judge of the Supreme Court, not in the presence of the country’s chief justice, Mohan Pieris, the Catholic appointee promoted by Rajapaksa after impeaching Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike.

Reportedly, the installation was unduly speeded up partly to relieve the public regarding fears of an alleged military intervention. Two days before the Jan. 8 election, a Muslim citizen wrote a 13-point open letter to the army commander deploring politicization of the military. All armed forces are under the defense secretary, Rajapaksa sibling Gotabhaya. Social media too reported that even before President Sirisena swore him in as prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe had private discussions with military leaders to assuage army fears of counter politicization, as well as to allay public fears.

Social peace and stability will be essential if the new president is to implement his 100-day program of constitutional reform and return to a just and equitable system of governance. He heads a rather loose coalition of disparate political elements, some of whose retinue may be nursing hopes of political perks and rewards. But the new president’s greatest asset is public confidence and hope for a return to an era of peace and social justice based on the equality of all citizens irrespective of race, religion or political persuasion. He received the unprecedented support of all ethnic groups. His highest percentage of votes came from the Tamil-speaking northern and eastern regions.

After a decade of discrimination, partisan politics, nepotism and corruption, the ethnically and economically fractured nation of 21 million will have thousands of grievances. The religious sector has the unenviable role of soothing their anxieties and championing their just causes. Religious leaders must heed the chiding by the nation and recommit themselves to guiding rulers with diligence and not pandering to their weaknesses. Much fallout of this period of transition could be contained if Church leaders act as Romeros, not as Richelieus.

In a statement to Fides news agency, Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy, has already welcomed the election of Sirisena. The country’s senior bishop expressed hope that the new president would implement the program of anti-corruption, good governance, commitment to development and reconciliation he placed before the country’s bishops.

Hector Welgampola

welgampo@gmail.com

Hector Welgampola

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

After 10 years, Sri Lanka elects new president

Sri Lanka Maithri screen shot Manifesto

Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisana screen shot of Manifesto from ground views.org/wp

President Maithripala Sirisena, 63,  took his oath of office as the 6th Executive President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka before Supreme Court Judge K. Sri Pawan at the Independence Square in Colombo Friday evening, Jan. 9, the Sri Lankan online newspaper Daily Mirror reported.

Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat in this morning’s polls ending his 10-year rule, which he tried to extend by removing the constitutional term limit for the presidency. He called elections two years ahead of schedule and was reportedly widely predicted to win before his party mate and health minister defected from the party to run against him.

Around the time Rajapaksa conceded defeat, the Department of Elections said it had counted 56.5 percent of the votes in favor of Sirisena while Rajapaksa garnered 42 percent.

Analysts say aside from winning votes of Tamil and Muslim electors in the countryside, Sirisena, a Sinhala Buddhist, also split votes of southern Sinhalese electors that traditionally backed Rajapaksa who led the government when it defeated Tamil militants in 2009.

Recently, however, Rajapaksa, 69, has been criticized for his authoritarian leadership and appointing family members to key positions in government.

Sirisena raised these issues in his campaign and promised to fight corruption and bring constitutional reforms to weaken the power of the presidency. His platform of government or “Manifesto”  promises he would work for genuine democracy by amending the constitution, review economic and development ventures and policies, promote a moral society, food security and sustainable agriculture, provide healthcare for all Sri Lankans, reform education, among others.

The elections were conducted just 5 days before Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to Sri Lanka to canonize its first saint and pray with pilgrims at the Marian Shrine in Madhu in a northern district heavily affected by the civil war.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith had said the candidates pledged at a meeting with bishops they would work for a “peaceful atmosphere” during Pope Francis’ visit to their country Jan. 13-15. Since Rajapaksa invited the pope for a state visit, the defeated president “gave his personal assurance that … he will not allow anything untoward to happen during the Papal Visit,” Cardinal Ranjith added in an interview in mid-December.

 

Papal Visit 2015 Sri Lanka: Pope Francis will be there – Cardinal Ranjith

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Preparations continue, and the Papal visit will take place, despite the doubts that clouded the event in the last months. The Sri-Lankan Church confirms Pope Francis’ pilgrimage from the 13th to the 15th of January; but President Mahinda Rajapaksa also confirms presidential elections on the 8th of January. In this state of affairs, the Pope is, whether he wants to or not, one of the deciding factors in the electoral campaign, in a contest between two candidates that promises to be very balanced. And, hopefully, it will be ‘free from any violence’ as the two candidates wished together in a public statement.

The first unavoidable aspect is exploitation…

Read full report ,La Stampa