Introduction . The people have spoken. Or have tried to. Despite the obstacles thrown in the way of their speaking freely, we, the bishops, believe that on the basis of our assessment as pastors of the recently concluded polls, what they attempted to say is clear enough.
The Conduct of the Polls . In our considered judgment, the polls were unparalleled in the fraudulence of their conduct. And we condemn especially the following modes of fraudulence and irregularities.
The systematic disenfranchisement of voters. The sheer scrambling of the voters’ lists made it impossible for vast number of our people to express their proper preference of candidates.
The widespread and massive vote-buying. The vote-buyers in their cynical exploiting of the people’s poverty and deep, if misguided, sense of utang na loob deprived a great many of any real freedom of choice.
The deliberate tampering with the election returns. The votes of the people, even when already duly expressed and counted, were altered to register choices other than their own.
Intimidation, harassment, terrorism and murder. These made naked fear the decisive factor in people not participating in the polls or making their final choice. These and many other irregularities point to a criminal use of power to thwart the sovereign will of the people. Yet, despite these evil acts, we are morally certain the people’s real will for change has been truly manifested.
Government Based on the Polls . According to moral principles, a government that assumes or retains power through fraudulent means has no moral basis. For such an access to power is tantamount to a forcible seizure and cannot command the allegiance of the citizenry. The most we can say then, about such a government, is that it is a government in possession of power. But admitting that, we hasten to add: Because of that very fact, that same government itself has the obligation to right the wrong it is founded on. It must respect the mandate of the people. This is precondition for any reconciliation.
Response in Faith . If such a government does not of itself freely correct the evil it has inflicted on the people then it is our serious moral obligation as a people to make it do so.
We are not going to effect the change we seek by doing nothing, by sheer apathy. If we did nothing we would be party to our own destruction as a people. We would be jointly guilty with the perpetrators of the wrong we want righted.
Neither do we advocate a bloody, violent means of righting this wrong. If we did, we would be sanctioning the enormous sin of fratricidal strife. Killing to achieve justice is not within the purview of our Christian vision in our present context.
The way indicated to us now is the way of non-violent struggle for justice.
This means active resistance of evil by peaceful means — in the manner of Christ. And its one end for now is that the will of the people be done through ways and means proper to the Gospel.
We therefore ask every loyal member of the Church, every commmunity of the faithful, to form their judgment about the February 7 polls. And if in faith they see things as we the bishops do, we must come together and discern what appropriate actions to take that will be according to the mind of Christ. In a creative, imaginative way, under the guidance of Christ’s Spirit, let us pray together, reason together, decide together, act together, always to the end that the truth prevail, that the will of the people be fully respected.
Conclusion. These last few days have given us shining examples of the non-violent struggle for justice we advocate here:
• The thousands of NAMFREL workers and volunteers who risked their very lives to ensure clean and honest elections;
• The COMELEC computer technicians who refused to degrade themselves by participating in election frauds.
• The poll officials — registrars, teachers, government workers who did their duty without fear or favor;
• The millions of ordinary voters who kep t the sanctity of their ballot untarnished, their dignity intact.
• Radio Veritas and fearless press people who spoke and reported the truth at all times.
Men and women of conscience, all. We cannot commend them highly enough.
There are thousands of their kind among government officials in the Batasan , the military, the COMELEC, among the millions of our people who in the face of overwhelming odds voted and acted as their conscience dictated. Are there other men and women of conscience who will stand up like them and courageously confess their Christianity?
Now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to repair the wrong. The wrong was systematically organized. So must its correction be. But as in the election itself, that depends fully on the people; on what they are willing and ready to do. We, the bishops, stand in solidarity with them in the common discernment for the good of the nation. But we insist: Our acting must always be according to the Gospel of Christ, that is, in a peaceful, non-violent way.
May He, the Lord of justice, the Lord of peace, be with us in our striving for that good. And may the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace, and patroness of our country, assist us in this time of need.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL
Archbishop of Cebu
February 13, 1986