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Pre-election political education

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, STD

Along the Way

 

WITH the electoral campaign period under way, many parishes and the Basic Ecclesial Communities are once again starting their programs for political education.

 

The PPCRV has started the campaign “One Good Vote” and the DILAAB has also came up with the “I Vote Good.” The Kapatiran is also offering materials and training for political education in parishes. The diocesan social action centers often coordinate the political education campaigns in each diocese and each parish is expected to implement whatever program is promoted.

 

In the past, the CBCP came out with guidelines on how Catholics should vote. Individual CBCP commissions like Family and Life also released guidelines focusing on “pro-life” candidates. Some clergy and lay people comment that we’ve been doing this before every election period and it seems we are not making any impact. Vote-buying is still rampant. Corrupt, incompetent, and abusive politicians keep on winning. What more can we do?

 

I think the weakness of our program for political education is that it is often done during the campaign period. With little time, and with election fever upon us, it is often inadequate. So, we end up with general appeals on voting wisely, exhorting them to avoid selling their votes, and discussing the past guidelines from CBCP.

 

The focus of  political education is too narrow and superficial. They are simply general reminders. A solid political education should begin with an analysis of our political culture, system, situation and problems and how they relate with the economic, environmental and social situation of our communities. The link between corruption, political dynasties, destruction of the environment, violence and criminality should be established. At the same time, the social teachings of the church regarding politics and good governance should be presented. A vision of the kind of society that we hope for in the future should be discussed. The people must see the consequences of their votes and wrong choices that they make during elections. Thus, there is a need to review and present the guidelines that the CBCP promoted in the past. Chief among this is the concern for the common good, total human development, justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.

 

In view of the recent concerns of the Church, there is also a need to highlight the qualities that we should look for in our candidates. Among these are being pro-life, pro-peace, pro-environment, pro-poor, and  pro-family. The most basic is the respect for life—from the moment of conception to its natural end. A pro-life candidate must therefore follow a consistent ethic of life. It does not only mean being against RH law or abortion. Thus, we must encourage the faithful to reject those who have been involved in or supportive of extra-judicial killings and who advocate the re-imposition of capital punishment. We must also reject those who advocate total war and who do not support the peace process. This also means rejecting those with records of human rights violation, who do not value human rights and who reject the rule of law and due process. This means rejecting those with dictatorial character. We do not want a repeat of the Marcos era.

 

Being pro-life means being for the environment. The destruction of the environment is a threat to life. We should support candidates who care for the earth, who have programs for addressing climate change. This means rejecting candidates responsible for the destruction of the environment through their support or active engagement in logging, mining, and coal-fired power-plants.

 

Honesty and integrity is to be valued among the candidates. This means rejecting candidates who are corrupt and who lie. Corruption maintains and worsens poverty. We must continue to emphasize that those who run for office must be pro-poor. This means going beyond dole-outs and patronage politics but rather coming up with sound economic programs that uplift the poor that respect the rights of labor, etc.

 

Our candidates should be pro-family, respecting the rights of family and strengthening it as an institution. They themselves, if they are married, should have a reputation of being faithful spouses and exemplary parents. Immoral and womanizing politicians should be rejected. Those who advocate divorce or gay marriage are not  acceptable, even as we respect the dignity of homosexuals.

 

We must always emphasize that while it is true that the Church has no official candidates or parties, and we do not dictate to the faithful who to vote for, we have to provide guidance on how they should vote. We should also provide moral guidance to candidates who profess to be Catholics so that they know what is expected of them as good Catholics.

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