At least two retired Catholic bishops said the Philippine Church should get involved in “principled partisan politics” in the national elections in May.
“The prohibition is only for the clergy not to enter into politics,” said Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao.
He said “the Church as an institution must remain neutral” because it is “for all,” but it is “the right and duty of the lay people to be involved in principled partisan politics.”
“It is a challenge for our lay leaders,” he said in an online voters’ education forum on Wednesday, February 2. “They should come openly,” said Archbishop Ledesma.
“We should correct that misimpression that the Church is non-partisan,” said the prelate. “The Church is partisan,” he said.
He said it is the moral duty of a Christian “to vote for a candidate who is for the common good.”
Archbishop Ledesma urged Filipino voters to openly support candidates in the May elections “based on their religious values.”
Bishop emeritus Teodoro Bacani Jr. of Novaliches, meanwhile, said Catholic Church leaders in the country should remain “non-partisan” and should not endorse political candidates.
“Under normal circumstances, you should not name names, but if the election of a person would only result in something bad for society, then one should openly fight against him or her,” said the prelate in Filipino in an interview over Radio Veritas 846.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is set to release a statement on the coming national elections later this month.
The crafting of the bishops’ pastoral statement is undergoing a process of “collective discernment” and will be released in late February, said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, the conference’s president.
He said the steps involved in coming out with a statement include focus group discussions among bishops to build “consensus among ourselves.”
“The Church is not only comprised of the bishops. We have the bigger sector of the Church, which is the laity and other religious partners,” said Bishop David.
“The drafting of our pastoral statement is still in progress and our time frame is we will release it before the end of February,” he said. – with a report from Mark Saludes