While over 40 million Filipinos went to their polling places to vote for the national and local leaders, I was in the Italian Embassy in Manila being interviewed for my visa application. My polling precinct is in Davao so it was impossible for me to vote. Anyway, I already left Davao on April 27 and I will return there six months from now after my Sabbatical.
I would have voted for Noynoy Aquino for president. Instead I just prayed that there will be no failure of elections and that Noynoy will win. Among the candidates, I believe that he is the one who has the leadership qualities and capability to lead this nation for the next six years.
Unlike Pastor Quiboloy and the Iglesia ni Kristo, the Catholic Church has not officially endorsed any candidate or political party. As a priest, I should not endorse any candidate although I can let others know who I will vote for. For religious leaders, engagement in partisan politics and dictating to others who to vote for is inappropriate. We should allow our members to vote according to their conscience, while at the same time providing guideliness on voting responsibly.
I was amused when Quiboloy who claims to be the "appointed son of God" announced that it is the will of his Heavenly Father that Gibo will be the next president of the Philippines. What happens if his candidate fails to win? That could raise doubts about the authenticity of the "Divine Revelation" and his status as the "appointed Son." It could also question the belief that he has over 5 million voting members. At least the Iglesia ni Kristo appears to base it endorsement on who it perceives will surely win. Nevertheless, I find it inappropriate and undemocratic for any religious leader or church to dictate to its members who to vote for.
I'm just glad that the Catholic Church has avoided making that mistake. There is no such thing as a Catholic Vote. Although there have been some groups like the Couples for Christ and some Pro-Life groups who have endorsed Villar who is perceived as corrupt. Other bishops have endorsed JC de los Reyes of Kapatiran - a political party whose principles and programs are supposedly based on Catholic Moral/Social teachings. The Kapatiran has been expecting to get support from the Catholic Church, from the parishes and religious organizations. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an official Catholic party and Kapatiran lacks credible candidates and a mass base. I admire Kapatiran's stress on a politics that is based on principles not on personalities, but unless the Kapatiran has candidates who embody its principles and who are credible to the masses they cannot expect to get elected. Most Filipinos are person-oriented, and they do not vote primarily on the basis of platforms and ideologies.
I disagree with some pro-Life groups who declared that the only acceptable candidates are those who opposed the Reproductive Health bill. This has led them to support candidates who are perceived as corrupt. One of them even went to the extent of hoping that Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo will win as congressman and become the speaker of the house just because she is regarded as pro-life. This is a narrow and myopic understanding of what it means to be pro-life. They fail to understand that corruption is a manifestation of the culture of death and is anti-life in so far as it perpetuates poverty, war, extra-judicial killings, ecological destruction, human rights violation.
Even as I fail to vote, I pray for our country that the elections will finally be credible and that we will be spared from the age-old curse of electing unworthy, corrupt and abusive leaders (like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her kind). I pray that we will be spared from electing someone who has been found guilty of corruption (but was pardoned) and someone who has been accused of using public office to enrich himself and his companies.
I finally pray that the elections will go smoothly and that there will be no more attempt by the Arroyo government to manipulate the results of the election that will perpetual her in power. Otherwise, I will be one of those who will actively join the People Power that will oust her.