Renewing the Political Order

Pastoral Guidelines on Choosing Candidates for the 1992 Elections

“But  choose from the people at large some capable and God-fearing persons, trustworthy and incorruptible, and appoint them as leaders of the people…” (Ex. 18:21).

Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The selection of new political leaders confronts our citizens with a reality that could lead either to a crisis born of despair or to a challenge illumined by hope.

As the spiritual pastors of our faithful, aware of our God-given responsibility to help from consciences (Deut. 17; 8-13), we place ourselves on the side of hope.  It is our prayerful hope that the political parties will choose for their standard bearers, men and women, who are characterized as “of good reputation, who are wise and full of the Spirit” (Acts 6:3).  We also place our hope in the courage and wisdom of our citizens who, in 1992, will elect our political representatives.

Because we do not wish this hope to turn into disillusionment, because we desire to strengthen our democratic ethos and to widen the horizons of peace and unity among our citizens, we, your Bishops, have decided to offer guidelines for the selection of our political candidates.

To avoid misinterpretations, we wish to make clear at the outset that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, through this Pastoral Letter, officially endorses no political party, supports no particular candidate, and favors no political platform.  We assert our respect for the healthy ideological pluralism that should characterize our multiparty system and, above all, we confirm the  freedom of all our citizens, of whatever faith, to make their political choices in the light of their consciences.

We should also note, that the ethical guidelines we present here regarding the essential qualifications of candidates, come from the collective discernment and wisdom of the laity, clergy, religious and Bishops who participated in the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines.  They were men and women who came from every corner of our country and who endorsed and articulated the values of maka-Diyos, maka-tao, and maka-bayan.

Out of these basic values, we can deduce the following desirable qualifications for political candidates:

1. The candidate must have pursued, with persistency and consistency, the common good. The  beloved Pope John XXIII, in his major Encyclical Pacem in  Terris  (Peace on Earth),  stated  that “the whole reason for the  existence  of  civil  authorities  is  the  realization  of  the common good” (No. 55).  By common good we mean particularly those common goods which the  individual  needs  but cannot assure for himself such as the  integrity of our environment, peace and order, participation, defense of human rights, a dynamic economy.  The new breed of politicians must then be defined as those imbued with  uncommon moral courage to transcend vested interests, whether of one’s party or family.  They must not utilize political positions to pave the way for nepotism, graft and corruption.

2. The candidate must have been a vigorous defender and promoter of justice. Justice,  if  faithfully  implemented,  can remove many of the causes of social conflicts.  This has been echoed  by  the 17th Philippine Business Conference whose Position Paper stated:  “One cannot expect or demand  peace  and  order  so long as the majority of the people are poor and deprived of access to social  services  and  adequate  incomes.  The  issue  of social justice must be addressed both directly and indirectly.”   Thus, the cry for social justice is a universal expectation among all sectors of our people.  We  call  for  maka-tao-type  politicians who are not self-centered, who can work together with a team in order to draw up programs for eliminating injustices which have become embedded within our social system.  Moreover given the high level of violence in our society, candidates must be committed to the defence of life and its  sacredness  in  all its stages, starting with the unborn.

3. The candidates must be imbued with the maka-Diyos spirit of service. Service  is  maka-Diyos  when  marked  by  humility after the example  of the Lord Jesus Who came to serve and not to be served.   It  cannot  be  genuine  service  when  it  is  done  in arrogance and domination.  Thus, the candidate  must  have the firm will to enter the path of  reforming  whatever in our bureaucracy,  in  our  military  and  police  forces, and in our judiciary and legislative systems are  prone  to  diminish  the freedom  of  our  citizenry  and  to  interfere in the legitimate pursuit of their livelihood.

4. The  candidate  must  possess  an enduring and preferential option for the poor. Love  for  the  dispossessed  poor, victims often of structural injustice, is akin to that  of God Whom Scriptures describe as the defender and liberator of the poor.  The Lord Jesus Himself chose to live with the  poor,  identifying Himself  with  their hardships and sufferings.  Our people expect the new maka-bayan politicians to live without ostentation, to be close to the poor in order to derive first-hand knowledge of their problems and to support their efforts  to  attain  economic self-reliance.  Their solidarity with the poor will give them the determination to defend the human rights of our citizens. The  candidate  must  have the necessary competence to effectively perform those tasks and responsibilities required by our laws. Politics in an imperfect democracy like the Philippines, is an intricate task.  For example, it requires skills to reform the tax system,  and  to  insure  basic  services  such   as   education, housing, and health.  It demands the professional competence which can stabilize our macro-economic environment as well as ensure the conditions of peace and order which enable our citizens to go about their daily life  without  fear and harassment.   Thus,  a  candidate’s  outstanding  achievements in a specialized   profession   do   not  necessarily  translate   into competence in politics.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the list of desirable qualities in a political candidate which we have presented, is far from exhaustive.  Through your own discernment and prayers, other valuable qualities can be identified and included as criteria for choosing appropriate candidates.  It is only right and proper that you, the faithful, should take the responsibility likewise, especially in the social and political sphere which belongs to your apostolate by virtue of your baptism in Christ.

You must now assume full responsibility to heal our political system.  You must now have the courage to make the State fully accountable to its citizens.  You must be a people with a spiritual vision to animate our citizens to vote only for those candidates who are truly maka-Diyos, maka-tao, and maka-bayan.  For in truth, it is the citizens, with their inalienable rights, who empower the State and its politicians, and not the other way around, as has become the fashion today to claim that it is the State that empowers citizens.

We, therefore, urge all members of God’s people, to enter into a period of prayer and discernment in order to fulfill their crucial duty of choosing a new breed of politicians.

We likewise appeal to all political parties to heed our citizens’ expectations regarding the selection of their party standard bearers.  The coming elections present the various political parties with a historic opportunity to place politics at the service of our people and to return nobility and honesty in public office.  To let this opportunity slip by without their initiatives to renew the political order by choosing men and women worthy of our nation, is to court not only the deepening disillusionment of Filipinos, but also their justified anger.

We look with hope to the future.  As a citizenry, we are on a pilgrimage of faith towards a new Philippines.  To attain this goal, we shall need the guidance and strength which can only come from God.  Let us take courage and remain steadfast–for He is by our side Who said, “Behold I make all things new”  (Rev. 21:5)

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:


Archbishop of Caceres

President, CBCP

28 November 1991