THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will discuss issues surrounding the 2016 national and local elections with Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista when the bishops convene for their biannual plenary assembly this weekend.
The CBCP’s secretary-general, Fr. Marvin Mejia, said the prelates want to know the preparations being done by the poll body for next year’s electoral exercise, particularly the method of election that it will adopt.
“Basically the bishops want to know the plan of the Comelec and clarify some questions regarding the conduct of the election,” Mejia explained.
Based on the recent statements of Comelec officials, the poll body is likely to junk the hybrid election system being proposed by some groups.
Eight bishops—Archbishop Rolando TriaTirona, Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar V. Cruz, Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Bishop Filomeno Bactol, Bishop Juan de Dios and Bishop Ramon Villena —were among 12 petitioners who asked the Supreme Court to stop the Comelec from realigning funds for the acquisition of 93,977 Optical Mark Readers (OMR) worth P12.641 billion.
The group said the procurement of the OMR units will exceed by over P1 billion the P11.436 billion allotted under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the Comelec’s preparatory activities for the 2016 polls.
”If permitted, the Commission will be permitted not only to undermine Congress’ spending power but more importantly, to wreak havoc to the budget, the system, as well as desecrate the Fundamental Law of the land,” the group said.
It stressed that the 2015 GAA does not contain any item authorizing the Comelec to acquire new OMR units.
Also to be discussed is the proposal of Fr. Carmelo Diola of the Dillab Foundation, a Christian-based movement, to launch an awareness campaign to help voters and candidates make informed choices.
The three-day biannual plenary assembly will be held at the Pius XII Center in Manila on Saturday.
The CBCP has also invited Education Secretary Armin Luistro to discuss the various concerns against the controversial K-to-12 program of the education department, which added two more years to the basic four-year high education program.
According to Mejia, the prelates will also tackled with Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto 3rd, who used to head the Senate Committee on Dangerous Drugs.
“It’s not being reported but actually some bishops see that this is really a growing problem. What actually triggered it is what happened to (Mary Jane) Veloso. She was accused basically of drug trafficking,” Mejia said.
Veloso was arrested in Indonesia for smuggling heroin. She was convicted and meted the death penalty.
During the weekend plenary meeting, bishops will also discuss the responses of the dioceses to the synod office’s global consultation on how Catholics perceive Church teachings on family.