How the Church can help the upright get elected

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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.
— Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas

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Advocates of good governance and true democracy cannot but agree with Archbishop Socrates Villegas. Voters should indeed not sell their votes for money or favors, and should see through electioneering propaganda for or against candidates.

But let’s get real. With widespread poverty and powerlessness, plus pervasive media influence and inducements, moneyed and well-connected candidates have swayed tens of millions of voters across the archipelago election after election.

Campaigns demand armies of campaigners wooing voters in vast areas, and media costs millions, if not billions, to run ads and obtain favorable coverage. Upright candidates often lose to rivals endowed with the mammoth resources from corruption and dubious supporters.

Plainly, if good men and women are to have a fighting chance at the polls, they need some way to counter the formidable campaign networks, alliances, and media clout mobilized by opponents with no scruples.

And the solution may well be in the hands of Archbishop Villegas and his fellow religious leaders: an integrity coalition of sectoral and civil society groups led by the Catholic Church and endorsing a list of upright candidates in 2016.

Pick and publicize upright candidates
Right now, even voters wishing to choose wisely are hard put to tell which of the tens of thousands of candidates running for several thousand positions nationwide, deserve their support and would truly work for the national good.

So most people just vote with nil information but what they can vaguely recall from media snippets in recent weeks or months, plus the good or bad word of local opinion makers. And both media recollections and grassroots kibitzers could well be influenced by the cash, connections and clout of corrupt politicians.

Hence, voters all over the country need trusted organizations to pick and publicize good candidates to vote for. Only then can citizens actually vote wisely, and upright personages stand some chance of getting more votes than the pittance they usually get.

Can this be done — a nationwide coalition including major religions, independent civil society, and community organizations compiling and endorsing a list of upright individuals for national and local positions from President down?

The coalition’s seal of good governance, if widely publicized by parishes and other entities nationwide, can counter the moneyed media and political clout wielded by traditional politicians.

To be sure, the “trapos” would remain hard to beat, and countless voters would still be swayed by vote-buying, name recall, favors, intimidation, and patronage politics. But the integrity coalition’s list and advocacy would offer an alternative, and make voters more conscious of good governance.

And it would be a hugely challenging task to mobilize nationwide and sectoral organizations. Even just getting the CBCP to endorse candidates may be difficult. Many would point to Cardinal Sin’s failed campaigns for rivals of Presidents Fidel Ramos and Estrada in the 1992 and 1998 elections.

But if the Catholic Church, with its nationwide reach and influence, plus the high trust rating of religious leaders, would not lift a finger for upright candidates, then no amount of pastoral exhortations can make a dent in our politics of patronage, money and media.

However, if upright organizations across the nation would lend their voices and trusted names to drum up voter awareness and support for candidates of integrity, then they would very well make more gains than ever before.

Benchmarks for integrity
Who should the integrity coalition endorse?

The hardest part about endorsing good candidates, of course, is choosing them. To keep that complex and thankless task manageable, the coalition should first keep the numbers down.

For 2016, the good candidate guide list can focus on upright, competent people for 14 national positions (president, vice-president, senators), 230-plus congressional districts, 81 gubernatorial and 35 independent city mayoral posts — about 350 candidates.

Also, the coalition need not endorse just one candidate for every position. Rather, it will give a seal of transparency and democratic governance to candidates who fulfill certain conditions that would give strong indication and assurance of integrity in public office.

What are those conditions that would screen out sleaze and buttress good governance? The coalition shall formulate them, of course, and here are some ideas:

First, candidates must go through no-holds-barred closed-door interviews on their time in public office, and execute waivers allowing the coalition to make the proceedings public at its discretion.

Second, those endorsed should execute waivers allowing disclosure to the coalition of their assets and business interests, as well as those of their immediate family. Waivers may be used if there are corruption allegations against endorsed officials.

Third, candidates shall pledge to conduct periodic dialogues on governance and policy matters with coalition representatives, whose proceedings may be made public at the coalition’s discretion.

Will Filipinos vote for the coalition’s lineup? The yearly Philippine Trust Index surveys show that the public trust religious leaders the most, with three out of every four citizens having confidence in Church leaders.

And Social Weather Stations found in early 2012 that religious groups wield positive endorsement value among 57 percent of voters. And people see integrity as the top criterion for trusting political leaders.

So at the CBCP Plenary in early July, the good bishops should ask themselves: Do we issue another pastoral letter for responsible voting, or do we join hands with other integrity groups and endorse upright candidates in 2016? May the Lord guide our prelates toward His holy will.

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12 Comments

  1. The one big problem is COMELEC who choose the candidates to run. They are the one dictating who can run.

    Next is the PICOS machine. Who are the people behind the TIM?

  2. ARIKATOKATOK on

    The church since time immemorial sides with the royals as means of survival. What the church should do is to curse the despots in power. Never teach the faithful about politics of election because priest and bishops are not doctors of political science. A hair cutter, barber’s opinion on politics is more credible than bishops opinion.

  3. matagal ng problema itong pag endorso ng mga karapatdapat na mga kandidato. simulan na ito nung 2013 sa bacolod, if im not mistaken (team patay and team buhay) pero ang pinakamabigat dito ay ang nagbubulag bulagang ppcrv at si cardinal tagle sa problema natin sa hocos pcos machines. kahit na anong kampanya para ihalal ang mga taong marangal at hindi kabigatan ang dalang bagahe, talo pa rin tayo sa huli dahil sa hocos pcos machines. kontrolado ito ni boy sisi at mga LP (Lapiang Pork)

  4. Amnata Pundit on

    In the public mind, the bottom line in politics is the question of how much? Magkano ? This idea should be abandoned unless one wants the people to confirm what it already suspects, that the Church does not know how to choose good men because of the presence of so many sexual molesters and con men in their ranks. Why drag the Church in activities that will only add to the polarization of society? Didn’t the churchmen choose Cory over Marcos and GMA over Erap? Enough already.

  5. Amado Aguila on

    The church should honor the separation of church and state. It should not meddle beyond its purview and never endorse political candidates. Most of our political leaders were products of Catholic schools, and considering the condition of our nation, it’s hard to imagine a passing grade was even considered. A short of revival from the church will not be enough. It needs to reexamine its self and dig deep within whether it too had been corrupted of the love of this world. Teaching the bible doctrine is a start. “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” and “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me….” are just the two that the church needs to work on. Helping people grow spiritually should be their primary responsibility.

    But the church can not do it alone. We can not elect or legislate discipline, good character and great culture. The type of government does not make a great nation, people do. A quick look at the top nations; USA, China, Japan and lets lump up Europe in one, all have different type of government: Federalism, Communism, Parliamentary system respectively, yet considered very successful in their own right.

    Filipino people are so blessed. You have so many untapped natural resources, one of the longest coastline in the world, perfect strategic location that two giant nations are considering going to war for. You are proficient in dual language that is the envy of the world. You have equal access to all knowledge and just as capable to compete with the best and the brightest. You are the only major Christian nation in the region, yet you are scared. You’d line up to foreign embassies and flight in sign of first trouble. You’d rather go overseas and use your expertise to help other nations instead of toughing it out because you are in the Philippines for a purpose. “If God is with you, who can possibly against you….” Filipino people are so discipline, resilient, hardworking, law abiding citizens, culturally adopt when they are out of the Philippines. But when they return, they are back to old selves, “when in Rome, do what the Romans do”. I hope and pray we finally realized, we are the problems and humble enough to do something about it. Sometimes the most difficult things to do are the ones worth doing.

  6. Para sa darating presidential election, huwag ng mag alangan ang simbahan mag bigay ng pangalan dahil wala ng epekto sa nakakaraming bobotante ang
    pangaral lang sa pagpili. Magbigay ng tatlong pangalan ang simbahan kung sino ang totoong matinong Pilipino na dapat maging pangulo ng bansa gaya halimbawa nila Duterte, Marcos, Gibo o Gordon.

  7. Jun Gonzaga on

    Thanks for this wonderful and practical idea. I hope there will be enough religious leaders who will be willing to transcend the religious divide to start laying the groundwork for an integrity coalition. God bless you.

  8. Alejo Rosete on

    I totally agree that the CHURCH should make a list of upright and non corrupt candidates to be lead by the Catholic Church.

    Now is the time to stop Political Dynasties and corrupt candidates from top to bottom (from President down to Barangay Level)

  9. P.Akialamiro on

    It is about time, the Catholic church should be pro-active during the 2016 election campaign. If there are no definite candidates to indorse, at least the general guidelines and advice of the CBCP President Archbishop Villegas should be available to all church-going catholics or to all students of catholic schools and other religious institutions. If other denominations select the candidates their members should vote for, why can’t the Catholic church do it, too? After all, it is a ‘known’ fact that these denominations promise to deliver votes to candidates who can give favors back in the form of appointments to some of their members in government positions, etc.

    The education of voters should be an ever-going service from the Catholic church at all times. What more, this education is along the moral precepts being inculcated by the church.

  10. Yan ang matagal ko nang hinihintay. Kung ang simbahan, lalu na ang Iglesia ni Kristo eh pipili ng matino at walang vested interest sa mga juicy positions eh mahahalal ang magagaling na pinuno sa atin.

  11. The church could help by staying out of politics.
    Advocating general principles is one thing, endorsing specific candidates, and bloc voting, is a whole different can of worms, and bag of pesos!

  12. Ang tanong! Sinong religious people ang pagkatiwalaan ng taongbayan? Kung ang Cbcp ay hati at hindi magkaisa! Ang media ay maykanya-kanya manok! At
    Hindi lahat na mababalita at isinusulat ay Totoo,saan kukuha ng totoong tao na pueding pagkatiwalaan!
    Sayang kung maytakot at tiwala at masunurin ang maraming katoliko sa mga pari, hindi sana mahirap gawin ito!