One cannot proclaim Christ as King and at the same time accept the governance of one whose thoughts, speech and demeanor are diametrically opposed to the demands of submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. — Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Pastoral Statement, May 1
Heed the call of the bishops. They say it would be a sin to vote for me. Good. If I lose, I will not die. You should listen to the bishops [saying]not to vote for me. That’s right. Anyway, I don’t believe in the bishops.— Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte talking with Philippine Star editors, May 5
For the first time, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and several leading prelates have counseled the faithful not to vote for a presidential candidate. Though unnamed, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the survey frontrunner in recent weeks, is widely known as the presidential candidate cited by the CBCP.
The May 1 pastoral letter said: “The desire for change is understandable. Our people have suffered from incompetence and indifference. But this cannot take the form of supporting a candidate whose speech and actions, whose plans and projects show scant regard for the rights of all, who has openly declared indifference if not dislike and disregard for the Church specially her moral teachings.”
Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, the first Mindanao cardinal, and Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma have also spoken against Duterte.
Cardinal Quevedo said: “The immoral termination of the life of the unborn and of innocent people, the termination of life even of suspected criminals in utter disregard of due process, are very serious violations. Select a candidate who by belief and practice demonstrates support for the right to life.”
Archbishop Ledesma cited a report from Fr. Amado Picardal, compiled by an unnamed source said to be familiar with the so-called Davao Death Squads. The DDS are accused of extrajudicial killings allegedly on Duterte’s orders.
The report alleges 1,424 deaths, including 132 children, for which no one has been held accountable. The Jesuit prelate declared: “These summary killings, without formal charges and due process … are illegal, immoral and sinful.”
Heed the bishops — and more
For his part, Duterte told one newspaper’s editors: “You should listen to the bishops [saying]not to vote for me.”
The faithful should indeed heed the prelates and seriously ponder their words. Then one should vote by one’s conscience, taking full account of the national situation, along with moral issues.
The mistake many may make is to vote without thinking through the election realities and whether dumping Duterte may make another candidate win who might cause more harm than him.
Can that happen? Let’s assess the presidentiables in light of the paramount challenge facing our nation: the lawlessness explosion.
That was covered in this column’s two-part article last Tuesday and Thursday, “The biggest threat we face and the president we need” ( http://www.manilatimes.net/the-biggest-threat-we-face-and-the-president-we-need/259834/ and http://www.manilatimes.net/the-president-we-need-for-the-battle-we-face-2/260221/ ).
The articles presented data on unprecedented lawlessness — the No. 1 problem today and the big reason Duterte gets support from one-third of voters in surveys, even affluent, educated city folk.
Crime incidents tripled since 2010 to 1 million-plus a year starting 2013 — more than 3 million in the past three years.
Murders topped 10,000 annually, while rapes doubled between 2010 and 2014, also exceeding 10,000 a year. Physical injury jumped 239 percent, while robbery, theft and other crimes against property nearly doubled to more than 230,000.
Smuggling also trebled, skyrocketing to $26.6 billion in 2014, based on International Monetary Fund data. It has topped P4 trillion under President Benigno Aquino III, who never investigated the contraband, not even when more than 2,000 cargo containers vanished in 2011.
The illicit trade has evaded over P760 billion in value-added tax alone, and lets containerloads of drugs and guns slip in.
Then there are appalling anomalies in tanim-bala, Metro Rail Transit, license plates, combat aircraft, among other irregularities. Plus jueteng — just ask Archbishop Oscar Cruz. These schemes not only scam the state, but also burden and endanger millions of Filipinos.
In sum, lawless groups on the streets, at the ports, and in government have gained immense power and resources across the land, and will continue amassing clout and spawning evil unless the next administration stops them.
Surely, that growing enormity destroying lives, families and communities must worry Catholics just as much as, if not more than one presidentiable’s morals.
Who can fight lawlessness?
With more than 3 million crimes since 2013, some 36 million Filipinos are affected, assuming a low estimate of two victims per crime and five relatives and friends per victim.
Plus millions of families with drug addicts, countless travelers spooked by tanim-bala, and the tens of millions of citizens seeing crime on TV and tabloids daily.
For them, only Duterte has made stopping crooks top priority; other presidentiables promise jobs and services. If Catholics drop Duterte, the alternative must be able to turn back the lawlessness tsunami.
Liberal Party bet Mar Roxas cannot; he would only extend the LP regime which unleashed the unprecedented crime, contraband and corruption, in the first place.
Sen. Grace Poe has never dealt with lawlessness. As a judge, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago put away criminals, but her health and poll ratings rule her out.
Vice-President Jejomar Binay could mount an anti-lawlessness campaign like Duterte. Binay too is battle-tested, as a rights lawyer standing up to the Marcos regime.
But unless Duterte votes improbably go en masse to Binay, not Poe and Roxas, the nation might elect a leader inexperienced in fighting lawlessness, or one who was Interior Secretary overseeing the police precisely when crime skyrocketed.
That is the choice facing the nation — Aquino-favored candidates with dubious law-enforcement mettle, or battle-tested oppositionists under whose rule we must guard against graft or rights violations — as we should with all leaders anyway.
These realities must inform Catholic voters, along with the guidance of our beloved bishops. And may the Holy Spirit enlighten us at the polls. Amen.