Prayer for the National Elections of May 11, 1998
O Holy Spirit,
You are in our midst, You dwell in us.
We praise and thank you.
We dedicate this year, 1998, to you
As we prepare for the Great Jubilee Year 2000.
We gratefully celebrate that fullness of time
When you came upon the Blessed Virgin Mary
And she conceived and gave birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High.
You anointed him to proclaim the Good News to the poor,
Bring liberation and healing to those in need,
And announce a year acceptable to the Lord.
O Spirit of God, the Renewing Spirit,
Lead us to Jesus our Lord in this year, 1998.
As we face national elections once again,
Fill us with the strength and courage
To liberate, to heal and renew our country.
Enlighten our minds. Fill us with wisdom
To select dedicated and competent political servant-leaders,
Filled with integrity, and committed to the good of each and of all,
Especially the poor.
Direct and lead us
That we might bear the light of Jesus our Hope
And remove the darkness of our political life.
Breathe new life into our body politic.
Eliminate all corruption and dishonesty.
Enliven us with the fire of your love,
So that with the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Our Mother and Model of Hope, we may renew
The face of our political world.
This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is a catechism on the Church and Politics. As a catechism, it does not aim to give a comprehensive explanation of Church doctrine on politics. It simply aims to provide in an easy question-and-answer format some of the more important church teachings relevant to our political situation today.
It may be used by catechists, diocesan/parish political educators, or other pastoral workers in forming the Christian political consciousness of people, especially at the grassroots level.
If necessary, elaboration of Church teachings on Politics may be obtained from the usual Catholic resources, such as Church documents, especially the Vatican II document, The Church in the Modern World, the social encyclicals of Pope John Paul II, especially Sollicitudo Rei Socialis and Centesimus Annus, moral theology textbooks, the Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the Laity (Christifideles laici), the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a companion volume, the Catechism for Filipino Catholics. The other main documentary sources for this Catechism are the Acts and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines and the 1997 CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics.
May the Holy Spirit guide the users of this brief catechism so that they may truly be of service in renewing our political culture.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
February, 1998 _____________
GS – -Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), 1965.
CCC — Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994.
CA – Centesimus Annus, 1991.
SRS – -Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987.
PCP-II Acts and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council, 1991.
PEPP CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics, 1997.
CL – Christifideles Laici, 1988.
RLHP – Religious Life and Human Promotion
CATECHISM ON THE CHURCH AND POLITICS
PART I: GENERAL CONCEPTS
1 What is politics?
a) Politics in the widest sense is the dynamic organization of society for the common good. As such it calls for the responsible active participation of all citizens (cf. Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, Religious Life and Human Promotion, 1980, no. 12).
b) Politics may be described as the art of government and public service. Vatican II describes politics as a “difficult and noble art” (GS, 75). Its aim is to realize the purpose of the State.
c) Politics is also used for partisan politics, the competition to win or retain positions of governmental power. In this last sense clerics and religious are forbidden by church law to be involved in (partisan) politics.
2 What is the purpose of the State?
The purpose of the State is the protection and promotion of the common good. In general this purpose is accomplished through three tasks: (1) legislation and administration of justice, (2) promotion of the socio-economic welfare and health, and (3) care for cultural and moral concerns or the fostering of good morals (see Karl H. Peschke, S.V.D., Christian Ethics: Moral Theology in the light of Vatican II, vol. II, Special Moral Theology, 1987, pp. 267-71).
3 What is the common good?
The common good is “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and easily” (GS, 26). It consists of three essential elements: (a) it presupposes respect for the fundamental rights of the human person and the natural freedoms necessary for the development of the human vocation; (b) it requires the social well being and development of the group itself, i.e., whatever is needed to lead a truly human life such as food, clothing, health, work, education, and culture should be accessible to each one; (c) it requires peace, i.e., the stability and security of a just order (cf. CCC, 1907-09). These social conditions are obtained through social justice.
4 What is social justice?
Social justice is sometimes called the justice of the common good. It demands proportionate share in the fruits of economic cooperation and equitable distribution of the wealth of a nation among different social classes. It also imposes obligations of mutual relation on different social groups, e.g., the better to assist the poor so that they can live in a manner worthy of human beings. Social justice condemns such situations as “excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples” (GS, 29), the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, and excessive profits.
5 What principles are the basis for the development of the social order?
The social order and its development “must be founded in truth, built on justice, and enlivened by love: it should grow in freedom towards a more humane equilibrium” (GS, loc. cit.). This means that individuals and groups should practice not just private morality but also social morality which governs the relationships between individuals and society. Some examples of the exercise of social morality would be the just payment of taxes, integrity and accountability in public office, rejection of graft and corruption, the care of the environment.
6 What is the political community?
The political community consists of persons, social groups and organizations, their institutions and structures that are necessary for directing or ordering society towards the common good. The common good is the full justification, meaning, and source of the political community’s specific and basic right to exist (GS, 74). Within the political community is public or political authority which “must be exercised within the limits of the moral order and directed toward the common good.”
7 What moral and religious principles guide politics?
The Bishops of the Philippines enumerated the following truths to guide politics (see PEPP, pp. 34-38): (a) human dignity and solidarity as the first principle of politics; (b) the common good as the goal of political activity; (c) authority and power as a divine trust for service; (d) autonomy and mutual collaboration between the Church and the political community.
PART II: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHURCH, STATE, AND POLITICS
8 What is the basis for the Church’s mission in politics?
The main reasons why the Church has a mission in politics are the following:
First, because politics has a moral dimension. Politics is a human activity. It may hurt or benefit people. It can lead to grace or to sin.
Second, because the Gospel and the Kingdom of God call the Church to political involvement. To proclaim the gospel to all creation necessarily includes evangelizing the political world. Moreover, at the center of Jesus’ mission is the proclaiming of the Kingdom of God. But the Kingdom of God calls us to repentance and renewal (Mk. 1:15). This call to renewal is addressed likewise to the political field.
Third, because the mission of the Church of integral salvation involves the political sphere. Integral salvation is the salvation of the total person, soul and body, spiritual and temporal. This is why Jesus not only forgave sins but also healed people from sickness. The Church must likewise bring the healing grace of salvation to the temporal, including political, sphere.
9 Are there other reasons why the Church must be involved in politics?
Yes, there are. Another reason is because salvation of the human person is from personal and social sin. We know that in the political field, social sins unfortunately abound, such as graft and corruption, “dirty politics” of “guns, goons, and gold”, deceit and unprincipled compromises, “politics of greed”. In the mind of the Church, systems where such social sins have been imbedded through constant practice are “structures of sin or structures of injustice.”
Still another reason is because the Church has an Option for the Poor. In the Philippines, politics is heavily tilted against the poor. The poor often become in a real sense voiceless and powerless. Laws are often passed that merely support vested interests rather than promote the common good of all.
Finally, because John Paul II said that the concrete human being living in history is “the way for the Church” (RH, 14; CA, 53-54). The temporal and spiritual development of the total human person is the way by which the Church accomplishes the mission to proclaim the Gospel. We know very well that politics can dehumanize the human person and entrap the person in sinful behavior or structures.
In short, politics cannot claim to be above or outside the natural law and the moral law. Politics has moral and religious dimensions. Therefore, the Church has to be involved in the political world.
10 Is not the Church’s involvement in politics “political interference”?
“Political interference” takes place when the Church involves itself in politics in a way that is not justified by her mission or when such involvement is against the Constitution. But the mission of the Church requires her, for instance, to denounce political attitudes, behavior and structures that run counter to the Gospel and to the Reign of God or that militate against the common good and the integral salvation of the human person, especially of the poor. Also in accord with her mission is for the Church to issue moral guidelines regarding the qualifications of political candidates. It would be “political interference” if the Church were to be involved in way that is not in keeping with her mission to evangelize, or if the Church were to violate the Constitutional mandate of “separation of Church and State.”
11 What does “separation of Church and State” mean?
Separation of Church and State is strictly defined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution to refer to two points: (1) that no religion may be established as the official religion of the State; and (2) that the State may not favor one religion over others. At the same time, the State shall forever allow the free exercise and enjoyment of religion and shall not require any religious test for the exercise of civil or political rights (see 1987 Philippine Constitution). The first point above is called the “non-establishment” clause.
To be noted is the fact that nowhere does the Constitution prohibit Clergy and Religious from partisan politics. What prohibits them from active involvement in partisan politics is the Church’s own laws and traditional wisdom.
12 But should not Church and State collaborate with each other?
Yes, because Church and State both work for the common good and for the good of every person. They have to respect each other’s legitimate independence or autonomy and each other’s way of achieving the common good and the total development of every human person. Precisely because of this unity of mission, Church and State have to collaborate with each other.
13 What is the mission of the Church regarding the political order?
The Church has the duty of proclaiming the Gospel “to all creation” (Mk. 16:15) and “to restore all things under Christ” (Eph. 1:10). This means that the Gospel must “influence every phase of life, every stratum of society” (PEPP, p. 26), including the political sphere. In fact it is the duty of every Christian – to transform politics by the Gospel. The relationship of the Church to the State has been described by the Philippine Bishops as one of “critical collaboration” or “critical solidarity”.
14 What is the meaning of “critical collaboration” or “critical solidarity”?
Critical collaboration or critical solidarity means that the Church is one with the State in promoting the common good. Cooperation, solidarity – positive support – has to be given by the Church to whatever the State may be doing for the common good in accordance with the Gospel. But the church must have a critical sense in providing such collaboration. It should denounce whatever is not in accord with the Gospel.
15 What vision of human dignity and solidarity does the Church contribute?
The Church contributes to the political order her vision “of the dignity of the person revealed in all its fullness in the mystery of the Incarnate Word” (CA, 47). This vision includes the truth: that the human person has been created unto the image of God and has an eternal destiny of unending happiness with God; that, having fallen into sin, the human person has been redeemed by God and absolutely needs God’s grace for salvation; that Jesus Christ is God-made-man who shows by his human life how the human person must live and serve; that the equal dignity of all human beings brings them into solidarity in mutual love, justice, and service.
16 What does “solidarity” mean?
Solidarity is a moral and social virtue. It is not a mere spirit of camaraderie or team spirit or some vague feeling of compassion or good will. Rather, it is “firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, i.e., to the good of all and of each individual because we are really responsible for all” (SRS, 38). It includes a love of preference for the poor, hence, solidarity with the poor. It is a commitment to achieve social justice, development and peace – and to achieve these by peaceful means and by respecting fundamental human rights. Solidarity extends to the level of relations between nations.
17 Must citizens obey political authority?
Every human community needs authority to govern it. It is necessary for the common good and the unity of the State. It is required by the moral order and comes from God. When legitimately constituted authority is exercised within the limits of its competence and in accord with the moral law, it must be respected and obeyed (PEPP, p. 37). This is why the Scriptures enjoin obedience to political authority. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Rom. 13:1-2; cf. Pt. 2: 13-17).
18 Can citizens disobey political authority?
While citizens are bound in conscience to obey political authority, they are not obliged to obey commands that are morally wrong. Political authority must not be used contrary to the moral law. This is why Vatican II says: “It is legitimate for them (citizens) to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against abuses of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the law of the Gospel.” This is especially true “when citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence” (GS, 74). St. Peter himself disobeyed the order of authorities and said “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19). This is the principle that impelled the Filipino people to resist the Marcos dictatorship and achieve liberation through the peaceful 1986 EDSA Revolution.
19 Is it true that the Church can work with any form of political regime?
The measure of the Church’s collaboration with a political regime is the higher law of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. The citizens of the State have the power of choosing the kind of political regime (e.g., democratic or authoritarian, presidential or parliamentary) they wish for themselves to attain the common good (GS, 74). In the light of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God, the Church can work with any political regime as long as her basic freedom to accomplish her divine mission and to avail of resources for this purpose are not suppressed. But the Church “cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or for ideological ends” (CA, 46).
20 What does the church expect of politics in view of integral development?
For the integral development of the human person and of all persons, the Church expects politics to create structures of “participation and shared responsibility” (CA, 46), where the basic freedoms and aspirations of individuals are given full scope to develop and grow. For example, the Church would expect the political community to remove or at least reduce excessive socio-economic inequalities among its citizens. The Church would also expect that electoral processes be truly democratic and fair. Politics must, therefore, not be a tool for the advancement of only a privileged few.
PART III: THE ROLE OF CLERGY, RELIGIOUS AND LAITY IN POLITICS
21 What are the roles of Clergy, Religious and laity with regard to “partisan politics”?
Traditional wisdom and general common sense, with support from Canon Law (or the Law of the Church), assign specific roles for different members of the Church. PCP-II pointed out these roles. “The Church’s competence in passing moral judgments even in matters political has been traditionally interpreted as pertaining to the clergy. Negatively put, the clergy can teach moral doctrines covering politics but cannot actively involve themselves in partisan politics. In practice, religious men and women are also included in this prohibition” (PCP-II, 340). But certainly lay people “have competence in active and direct partisan politics” (PCP-II, 341). This general rule is certainly not rigid, because lay people themselves have a teaching role regarding politics, especially in their witnessing to gospel values in the world of politics. Concretely, priests, religious men and women, and lay people, i.e., the Church “must be involved in the area of politics when Gospel values are at stake” (PCP-II, 344).
22 Why should priests, religious men and women refrain from involvement in partisan politics?
As we have seen, the prohibition is not because of any Philippine constitutional provision. But the Church prohibits Clergy and Religious from involvement in partisan politics because they are considered the symbols of unity in the Church community. For them to take an active part in partisan politics, with its wheeling and dealing, compromises, confrontational and adversarial positions, would be to weaken their teaching authority and destroy the unity they represent and protect. Still, it must be admitted that sometimes even the teaching of moral principles is actually interpreted by some as partisan politics, because of actual circumstances (PCP-II, 343-344). An example was the Bishops’ post-election statement in 1986 when they taught that a government that has assumed power by fraud had no moral right to govern. This teaching was considered partisan for the opposition presidential candidate and against the winner proclaimed by a subservient parliament.
23 What is the specific mission of the laity in politics?
The mission of the laity is the same as that of the entire Church, which is to renew the political order according to Gospel principles and values. But such renewal by the laity is through active and partisan political involvement, a role generally not allowed to priests and religious men and women. This is the reason that PCP-II urges the lay faithful not to be passive regarding political involvement but to take a leading role. In fact, PCP-II states: “In the Philippines today, given the general perception that politics has become an obstacle to integral development, the urgent necessity is for the lay faithful to participate more actively, with singular competence and integrity, in political affairs” (PCP-II, 348). Moreover, the laity must “help form the civic conscience of the voting population and work to explicitly promote the election of leaders of true integrity to public office” (PCP-II, Art. 8, #1).
24 What truths should guide the laity’s political involvement?
PCP-II underlined the following principles to guide political participation of Catholics:
a. That the basic standard for participation be the pursuit of the common good;
b. That participation be characterized by a defence and promotion of justice;
c.That participation be inspired and guided by the spirit of service;
d. That it be imbued with a love of preference for the poor; and
e. That empowering people be carried out both as a process and as a goal of political activity. (PCP-II, 351).
But more than just political involvement is the primary importance of the lay faithful being witnesses to the Gospel. John Paul II said: “The lay faithful must bear witness to those human and Gospel values that are intimately connected with political activity itself, such as liberty and justice, solidarity, faithful and unselfish dedication for the good of all, a simple lifestyle, and a preferential love for the poor and the least” (CL, 42).
25 Are there so called “Catholic candidates” or is there a “Catholic vote”?
The Gospel does not prescribe only one way of being political or only one way of political governing (such as monarchical, presidential, parliamentary, etc.), much less only one political party or even one slate of candidates. No one political option can fully carry out the Gospel mandate of renewing the political order or of serving the common good. No one political party or platform or set of candidates can exclusively claim the name Catholic. Hence to Catholics there are many political options that the Gospel does not prohibit. Therefore, there is generally no such thing as a “Catholic vote” or “the Bishops’ candidates”. This is simply a myth. The Bishops do not endorse any particular candidate or party but leave to the laity to vote according to their enlightened and formed consciences in accordance with the Gospel.
26 Is there any case when the Bishops can authoritatively order the lay faithful to vote for one particular and concrete option?
Yes, there is, and the case would certainly be extraordinary. This happens when a political option is clearly the only one demanded by the Gospel. An example is when a presidential candidate is clearly bent to destroy the Church and its mission of salvation and has all the resources to win, while hiding his malevolent intentions behind political promises. In this case, the Church may authoritatively demand the faithful, even under pain of sin, to vote against this particular candidate. But such situations are understandably very rare.
27 How does the Church fulfill its mission on renewing or evangelizing politics?
a. by catechesis or Christian education in politics in order to evangelize our political culture which is characterized by a separation between faith and politics;
b. by issuing guidelines on properly choosing political officials, so that the people may have a properly formed conscience in their electoral choices;
c. by helping keep elections honest, clean, peaceful, and orderly through various church organizations, cooperating with non-government organizations;
d. by pushing for structural changes as a goal of pastoral action in the political field, such as urging for reforms in the electoral processes in order to avoid delays and ensure integrity throughout the entire electoral process from voting, to counting, to reporting, and finally to proclaiming the winners;
e. by political advocacy such as lobbying for legislation that promote the common good and against bills that promote the vested interests of the few;
f. by getting involved in a movement of civil society (civic organizations, peoples’ organizations, non-government organizations, associations of lay people and religious, school associations, etc.) to change politics for the better;
g. by organizing her own network of parishes and organizations, pastoral and social centers, etc., such as NASSA VOTE-CARE and PPC-RV, to help keep elections clean, honest, peaceful and orderly.
h. by the living witness of all the Catholic faithful to Christ and to the values of the Gospel. This is the most important contribution of the Church to the evangelization of politics.
PART IV: PHILIPPINE POLITICS – SITUATION AND RENEWAL
28 Why has the Church been so actively involved in politics in the Philippines?
The main reason, the Bishops themselves said, is the following fact: “Philippine politics – the way it is practised – has been the most hurtful of us as a people. It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving full development” (PEPP, 7). PCP-II summed up our kind of politics in this way: “Perhaps an even more fundamental aspect of our kahirapan is that poverty and inequality joined to the absence of reliable social services seem to be part of a self-perpetuating social system and political culture” (PCP-II Appendix 1, pp. 278-79)
29 What are some of the negative features our political culture?
Negatively, Philippine politics is often described as basically “patronage politics”, “a politics of personalities” and a “politics of pay-off.” PCP-II summarily described our politics in the following way: “Power and control are also elitist, lopsidedly concentrated on established families that tend to perpetuate themselves in political dynasties” (PCP-II, 24).
30 What is meant by “patronage politics”?
Deriving from the feudal system of master and servant, the politics of patronage considers the relationship between public official and ordinary citizen as that of patron (master) and client (servant). Rewards or benefits are distributed according to the loyalty of clients to their patrons. Clients or voters depend on their patrons or public officials for every development project or assistance, and solutions to community problems. Rewards or development projects are distributed, then, on the basis not of justice due to people but on the basis of the government official’s “kindness” and the loyalty of the people to the public official. Thus political leaders and followers who show support are rewarded with projects, money or jobs. Dependence and subservience, passivity and inaction on the part of citizens is characteristic of such a system. This accounts for the lack of viable political organizations among the poor on the one hand and the concentration of power in the hands of the few on the other. In addition because political positions are treated like feudal properties, public funds are used by some officials as their own, for personal or family interests. In fact a political office is often treated as some sort of a feudal title to be passed on from one generation to another. This is at the basis of so called “family dynasties.”
31 What is meant by the “politics of personalities”?
This is a system where the popularity of political candidates rather than issues count more than knowledge and competence. The popularity of personalities and the “connection” of personalities to the powers that be are more often than not the main criteria for judging who should be elected. Thus, candidates for political office who are popular in movies, sports, or are connected to powerful political families have a significant headstart in elections. Coupled with Filipino values of family-centeredness, family connections have resulted in family political dynasties. Moreover, the politics of personalities has made it possible for frequent changes in political party affiliation or political “turn-coatism”. Parties do not have political ideologies that present voters with clear-cut alternatives on key social issues such as environmental protection, globalization, trade liberalization, etc. PCP-II observed that people themselves “seem to care more for the projects and gifts and less for the substantive issues on which their elected political representatives should take a stand” (PCP-II, pp. 279-80).
32 What is meant by a “politics of pay-off”?
It is a system of politics where political advantage is the reason that a politician takes one position over another with regard to issues. The political debate depends on answers to such questions as “What will you do for me if I support you on this issue”? Pay-off can be in terms of financial “commissions”, political appointments, or of better political leverage. This is sadly the belief of what goes on in the halls of Congress. It is not rare that decisions are based not on principles but on “horse trading”, vested interests and on so called “party loyalty.” Many people, therefore, believe that decisions on the government yearly budget depend very much on questions of the “pork barrel” fund. The more generous the “pork barrel” the easier other items of the budget are approved. “Politics of pay-off” also includes vote-buying.
33 Is the mentality of many politicians part of this political culture?
Yes. Undoubtedly there are many politicians who truly strive for the common good. They consider themselves public servants in the real sense and truly act as such. Unfortunately, there are also many who give politics a dirty name because of their mentality. They look at politics as a means of enrichment and a source of influence and power for self and family-interests. Thus, politics becomes a cause of greed. Principles are sacrificed. One can very well ask why so many would want to spend so much money and even cheat in order to be elected to political positions that pay relatively little.
34 Do the terms “traditional politics” and “traditional politicians” refer to the negative features mentioned?
Yes. In themselves the terms are not derogatory. But in recent years, to highlight the need of a new kind of politics and of a new breed of politicians, the terms “traditional politics” and “traditional politicians” have increasingly been understood to describe the negative features of the world of politics. This is the background of the word trapo.
35 Is this why the Bishops say that our political culture is negative?
Yes, the bishops, said that the political “system is shot through and through with opportunities for corruption, influence-peddling, and the indiscriminate use of public funds for partisan or personal purposes” (PEPP, p. 29). They also said: “If we are what we are today – a country with a very great number of poor and powerless people – one reason is the way we have allowed politics to be debased and prostituted to the low level it is now” (PEPP, p. 10). In fact after analyzing the very negative features of the election process, the Bishops lamented that: “The prime values of our faith – charity, justice, honesty, truth – these are of little or no consequence at all when it comes to our practice of politics in or out of election time.” (PEPP, p. 21).
36 Why? What is wrong about our election process?
The Bishops mention the following evils that are happening before elections:
- switching party affiliations for the sake of political ambition;
- getting media exposure by any means, including bribing willing journalists;
- using public funds for political advertisements;
- using government bureaucracy for campaigning;
- being “wined, dined, and womened” at convention time in order to win votes;
- spending enormous amounts of funds, accountable and unaccountable, before and during the campaign period;
- making campaigns more of an entertainment circus for people and of black propaganda rather than discussion of issues;
- people in turn ask for countless donations from candidates;
- people registering more than once in different precincts.
37 What are the evil activities done on election day itself?
- Using “flying voters”;
- intimidating voters; using violence and even murdering political rivals or their supporters;
- scaring voters away by threats of violence; deliberately making voting paraphernalia unavailable, and precincts inaccessible;
- bribing election officials, including teachers who count the votes;
- tampering with ballots; deliberately miscounting votes; changing election results;
- delaying or slowing down the tabulation of final results in order to create opportunities for changing the results.
38 After the elections, what questionable or even reprehensible actions do we observe?
- Protesting the final results as tabulated;
- slowness of deciding on election protests such that election winners hardly have any time left to serve their tenure;
- using political office in order to pay election debts, recoup election expenses, make fat profits, and perpetuate the officeholder in power;
- nepotism in political appointments; kickbacks in approving and awarding projects.
39 Are the people themselves responsible for this sad situation?
Certainly, at least in part, because people have become fatalistic and cynical regarding politics and have often consented to its evil features. They say that is the nature of politics and cannot be changed. People have become so accustomed to seeing the above evils in the world of politics that many seem to have surrendered to this reality. In fact, many become participants by asking donations from candidates, by willingly selling their votes, by expecting to be entertained during the campaign period, by being agents in buying votes and tampering with election results, etc. This is why by participating in or tolerating the evils of the electoral process, we reap the corresponding evil of having bad people to govern us.
40 Is it alright to accept money as long as one votes according to one’s conscience?
No, it is not alright. If the source of the money is clean, accepting it without voting for the candidate who gave it makes you a liar. And if you vote for the candidate, you have actually sold your vote.
If the source of the money is not clean, then you become a cooperator in evil because you accept it.
By accepting any money from candidates, no matter from what source and with what intention, you are perpetuating a form of dirty politics which encourages graft and corruption, for today’s vote buyers are tomorrow’s grafters.
41 Are there no signs of hope that politics can change for the better?
There are many signs of change. We had the brightest example of how people acted as one to protest against the widespread fraud in the 1986 Snap Election. We saw the courage of men and women walking out of their jobs as computer personnel so that they would not be accomplices in the manipulation of election results. We saw many lay volunteers, priests, and religious men and women who guarded the polls at the risk of their lives in the 1984 and 1986 elections. And, of course, there was the 1986 People Power revolution at EDSA that successfully expelled a dictatorship and restored democratic freedoms. Since then, non-government organizations and peoples’ organizations have sprouted in great numbers to express the peoples’ desire for participation and solidarity in the socio-economic and political fields.
42 What qualifications should we look for in political candidates?
In many previous statements, the Bishops have insisted on certain qualifications that candidates must have. Among these are the following:
Those seeking public office must be pro-God (maka-Diyos) rather than materialistic and secularistic; pro-people (maka-tao) rather than pro-self; pro-nation (maka-bayan); pro-common good rather than pro-special groups; and pro-environment (maka-kalikasan) rather than ecologically insensitive.
Other qualifications are those that have been enumerated by PCP-II, namely: they must be persons who truly pursue the common good, defend and promote justice, have a spirit of service, love of preference for the poor, and are eager to empower people (see PCP-II, 351). All these have to be verified from their past histories and records.
In their pastoral exhortation on the 1998 elections, the bishops underlined the following qualifications: competence and integrity. They said that competence is the ability to do the expected work well and not necessarily to be able to speak well nor to be popular. They said that integrity means respect for the human rights of others, honesty in public office and fidelity to marital commitment (to wife or husband), and to family commitments (the loving care of the family). This means that a good moral character is fundamentally necessary in aspiring for public office. To be trusted in politics and entrusted by people with the common good, one has to be trustworthy in the moral and religious fields. These are intimately and inseparably interwined.
43 Since politics is seen as “dirty”, should not Catholic leaders stay away from politics?
No, on the contrary, they should involve themselves directly in partisan politics so that they can renew it and make it work for the common good. PCP-II itself has encouraged such participation (see PCP-II, 348-50). It urged the following: “Catholics in politics have to work in favor of legislation that is imbued with these [Christian] principles. Knowing that the wrong behavior and values are often rewarded or left unpunished, Catholic politicians have to put teeth to good legislation by making certain that the correct system of rewards and punishment be strictly enforced in public life” (PCP-II, 352). Examples of criminal actions often remaining unpunished are those that are committed by powerful people, including politicians themselves.
44 In general, how should Catholics participate effectively in elections?
By volunteering to work in a non-partisan way with non-government organizations such as NAMFREL, or Church movements such as PPC-RV and NASSA VOTE-CARE in helping raise the awareness of people regarding responsible voting, and in keeping elections honest, clean, peaceful, and orderly.
By working for and joining a political party in order to get elected into public office or to support truly qualified candidates and to help ensure that the political party itself abide by the values of integrity, honesty, and issue-oriented electoral campaign.
By working for the passage and implementation of electoral laws that will help make elections honest and peaceful.
Above all, a Catholic voter must vote wisely and honestly, in accordance with a properly formed conscience and not because of monetary considerations, family connections or utang na loob.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
February 1, 1998