(Pastoral Statement on Elections 2004)

Elections are a crucial moment in our continuing task of nation-building. They are a “timely opportunity to transform society by electing wise, capable and upright leaders.” (Oratio imperata) It is a time when we can institutionalize further People Power through the informed and responsible choice of local and national leaders by millions of Filipinos here and abroad.

Despite disturbing talk of massive frauds and unconstitutional measures being contemplated by various political groupings, we assert once more that the vigilance and concerted action of ordinary citizens would be the best guarantee of maintaining honest, orderly and peaceful elections. Are we ready to defend our democratic way of life through the constitutional process and the rule of law?

It is in this light that we emphasize the importance of safeguarding the election process. We highly endorse citizens’ groups such as PPCRV, NAMFREL, and others to work closely with COMELEC, the military and PNP and public school teachers in maintaining a neutral and non-partisan role in ensuring the electoral process. We also note that the voters’ list in many places has not yet been made available by COMELEC and neither has the supply of indelible ink been assured. Will this problem be solved before election?

The electoral process is also a time when we can state that we cannot be neutral against corruption in its various forms, e.g. vote-buying and vote-selling, taxation by the NPA of political candidates and ordinary citizens, misuse of public funds, etc. This fight against corruption is a gospel imperative.

Even as we focus on election-day itself, we also remind voters of their right and duty before elections to discern and choose candidates based on certain criteria. At least three basic criteria are to be considered:

First, is the candidate a person of competence, i.e. in terms of leadership experience, professional qualifications, and record of governance? Second, is the candidate a person of conscience, i.e. with personal integrity, transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights? And third, is the candidate a person of commitment to a vision and program of action on key issues such as family and life, environment, illegal drugs and gambling, justice, peace and order, poverty alleviation, education, etc.?

Beyond elections, there is the greater challenge for all citizens: to continue monitoring winning candidates in order to ensure transparency, accountability and people empowerment for good governance. We have been praying for clean elections; we continue to pray and work for reconciliation and the solidarity that is essential to nation-building.

“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all.” (Gal 6:9-10).

For the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines:

Archbishop of Davao
President, CBCP

April 21, 2004