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Soon it will be election time. We shall again be choosing the people who will govern
us. We shall also be choosing the kind of future we want for ourselves. For our
future depends most of all on our choices, and especially on our choice of leaders.

Present-day Crises

The choices we make in this election are critically important because of the
difficulties that beset us. We are undergoing a very severe economic crisis. After
what many thought was an economic take-off that had brought us close to the
status of a newly-industrialized country, we are experiencing an economic downturn
brought about by the steep depreciation of the value of the peso in relation to the
U.S. dollar. It appears that this economic crisis will be with us for some time. In the
meantime thousands of our people are losing their jobs even as the prices of goods
increase. All of us suffer, but most especially the poor.

Compounding our difficulties is an ecological crisis. We are suffering from the "El
Nio" phenomenon. Many places lack rain so necessary for our farms. Even clean
water for our domestic needs has become scarce and expensive. "La Nia" which
threatens to be even more destructive is expected to follow. All of this comes in
addition to the pollution of our air and rivers, and the destruction of our ecosystem.

We are also undergoing a socio-political crisis. Peace and order has deteriorated.
There has been a marked increase in the number of kidnappings for ransom.
Robberies both on a small and big scale and the killing of innocent victims often
after they have been sexually violated are unchecked. The problem of insurgency
continues to disturb the peace while the drug menace continues to spread. A most
disturbing aspect of many crimes is the acknowledged fact that many of those who
commit them are law enforcers. This has resulted in a serious loss of confidence in
the ability of our police and military personnel to combat crime and preserve peace
and order.

The words of Scripture seem to be literally realized among us: "Arrogant scoundrels
pursue the poor; they trap them by their cunning schemes. The wicked even boast
of their greed; . . . their affairs always succeed; . . . The helpless are crushed, laid
low; they fall into the power of the wicked" (Ps. 9-10: 2-3, 5, 10).

Underlying all of these crises is a moral crisis. In our society today the highest
premium is given to money and power. Greed for money and power are what fuel
the corruption and violence that is eating up our social fabric. Add to this the
hedonism that is fostered by the mass media and the scandal that is given by
prominent personalities who are able to flaunt not only the law of the land but the
law of God with seeming impunity. Many of our leaders in politics, in business, and
in the entertainment world seem to be guided by no other moral compass than self-
interest. In the political field, especially, these words seem to apply to many
leaders: "...there is no sincerity in their mouths; their hearts are corrupt. Their
throats are open graves; on their tongues are subtle lies" (Ps. 5:10). No wonder,
many of our youth go through life without any moral direction, and many adults
suffer from cynicism. We, your pastors, have our share of fault in this moral crisis
gripping our country, and we take this occasion to ask pardon from God and from
you for our own offenses and omissions.

The crises that mark our times make it imperative that in these coming elections we
choose the right persons to lead us and that we ensure respect for our choices. Not
too long ago, we wrote a Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics. We refer you to
what we said there, but in this letter we wish to underline the necessity of honest
and credible elections and the correct choice of elected officials

The Necessity of Honest and Credible Elections

In the context of the times, we must make sure first of all that those who become
our leaders in government are those whom we have in fact freely chosen to lead us.
We must work for HONEST ELECTIONS. We should make sure that people are able
to freely vote for those whom they wish, that all forms of cheating are eliminated
and that the votes are counted correctly from the precinct level to the final
canvassing, so that the rightful winners are proclaimed and assume office. We
should not allow candidates to steal public offices they do not deserve to occupy
while depriving us of the services of those whom we have chosen to serve us.
Those who steal public office will steal from public coffers. While imposing
themselves upon the people they will not hesitate to lay heavy burdens on them.
Cheats do not make good public servants.

It is people who cheat. The automation or computerization of the voting and

counting does not guarantee honest elections. Dishonest persons can use
machines to cheat. Only the correct moral formation of persons and our concerted
vigilance will serve as adequate safeguards against election cheating.

We ask the public school teachers who will be drafted to work as members of the
board of elections inspectors to be true to their conscience, to their profession and
to their country in the performance of their duties.

We appeal to the different parties and candidates to conduct themselves with honor.
Public office is a public trust. Those who wish to be leaders in the political
community must behave like servants and not as thieves. To gain public office by
cheating is to usurp what does not belong to you. A person who wins public office
by cheating must restore that stolen public office to the rightful winner. This is not
only an obligation under the law but a moral obligation in conscience before God.

We appeal to you, our countrymen and countrywomen, not to cheat or allow

yourselves to be used in any way for cheating in the elections. Do not vote more
than once. Do not buy votes. Do not intimidate others. Do not miscount the votes
or report falsely the results of the voting. God sees what we do, even when no one
else seems to know.

One form of cheating--vote-buying--is particularly revolting. It demeans both the

person who buys the vote of another and the person who sells his vote. The person
who sells his vote shows that his choice can be bought, and that he is willing to sell
his and the country's future to the vote-buyer. In so doing he confirms the vote-
buyer's low opinion of him. The person who buys votes makes clear that he will not
hesitate to demean the dignity of the voters to obtain an elective position, and by
that fact shows he does not deserve to be elected.

We must not give even the impression of condoning this immoral practice of vote-
buying. Hence, we ask our voters not to accept money from those who would buy
their votes, but to shame vote buyers by their outright refusal to be bought.

Another form of cheating is the use of intimidation and violence. People are forced
to either not vote or to vote for a candidate who is not their choice. To prevent
intimidation and violence, we urge the COMELEC to strictly enforce a total gun ban
during election time as has been successfully done in the past. We exhort those
deputized by the COMELEC to do their duties with conscientiousness and
impartiality. Likewise, citizens should band together or join citizens' groups like the
PPC-RV, NAMFREL and VOTE-CARE in order to prevent or report instances of

Recent experience has shown that much of the cheating has been effectively done
through the tampering of the vote counts. Dagdag-bawas has shown that the
correct counting of votes at the precinct level does not guarantee honest election
results. Votes can be added to or subtracted from the true results before they reach
the final canvassing. The delay in the tallying of votes increases the likelihood of
dagdag-bawas. Hence, it is necessary to count, tally and canvass the votes as fast
as possible in order to prevent this pernicious form of cheating. The vigilance of
citizens' groups should be unrelenting.

Again, we repeat that at this critical point of our history, it is of paramount

importance that those who get proclaimed as winners in the elections are those who
in fact have won, no matter who they are. The survival of our democracy demands
that the people are ruled by those whom they want to rule over them, and whom
they have truly and freely voted into office. To put it bluntly, it is preferable that
persons who are less qualified but voted into office in an honest election should
govern our people than that supposedly more qualified men who have dishonestly
won the election should govern our nation. Hence, we must give top priority to
securing honest elections.

The Necessity of Voting the Right People into Office

However, it is also of the utmost importance that we vote the right people to office.
But who are the right persons to vote for? Whom does God want us to designate to
become bearers of that awesome authority which emanates from him (cf. Rom.
13:1)? In the past, we enumerated some guidelines to help our people make the
correct choices. Those guidelines remain valid. But allow us to set forth a
simplified guide for these elections.

In choosing our leaders in the political community it would be most logical to look
first at the platforms and programs of the different political parties. But
unfortunately in our country there are practically no differences in the platforms and
programs of the different parties. Proof of this is the ease with which candidates
even for the highest offices transfer parties or form alliances when their personal
interests suit it. We need to focus our attention on the qualities needed by our
elective public officials.

The most necessary qualification that a candidate must have is COMPETENCE in

relation to the office he is seeking to be elected to. Is the candidate capable of
fulfilling the duties of the office he aspires to? Does he have the physical health,
mental ability, and emotional capability needed to handle the demands of his
office? In other words, can the candidate do the job if elected?

An important element of this competence especially in regard to our next President

and Vice-president is the candidate's possession of that quality called LEADERSHIP.
We need a President whom the people can look up to, who can inspire confidence
and motivate them to unite and conspire towards the common good. Leadership is
not the same as popularity or prowess in oratory. Neither is it the capacity to
manipulate people towards self-serving ends. Leadership is rather a way of serving
that draws people together and draws the best from them so that they dare to forge
a better future together despite all obstacles.

In these critical times we need a President who has the leadership required to lead
us out of the economic turmoil and to restore peace and order in our land.

The competence of a candidate is to be measured from his native qualities and his
track record in serving the community. The way a person has served in the past is a
better gauge of his competence than any academic credentials he may hold.
Performance, not promises or popularity, is the test of competence.

The second qualification necessary is the PERSONAL INTEGRITY of the candidate.

The candidate should not only be competent. He should also be God-fearing, God-
loving (maka-Diyos ) and moral. And morality means first of all an absolute
commitment to uphold the human rights and freedom of others, and honesty in the
handling of public funds. Morality also means truthfulness, and upright conduct in
one's private and family life.
Personal integrity means, finally, that while we must make allowances for human
weakness and sin in our public officials, we have a right to expect them to hold on
to sound moral principles and to follow those principles with consistency.

For example, we have a right to expect our public officials, but especially our
President and Vice-President to uphold respect for human life from conception to its
natural end, and to protect the sanctity of the family, as mandated by our
Constitution, both by the measures they promote and by the example of their own

A third paramount quality we should seek in candidates for public office is a proven
commitment to the common good. We should elect persons who can transcend
narrow self and family interests and are willing to make sacrifices for the public
good. Corrupt persons do not have this commitment. Neither do those politicians
whose actions are guided only by convenience or the desire to do the popular thing
whether it be right or wrong. Such persons should not be voted into public office.

In sum, we ask you to vote into office, especially as President and Vice-President
candidates who have exhibited COMPETENT LEADERSHIP, PERSONAL INTEGRITY and

Our Competence as Pastors and its Limits

While we as your pastors propose to you these guidelines based on the Gospel of
Jesus Christ (cf., e.g., Mk. 10:35-45; Mt. 24:45-51; 25:14-30; Jn. 13:1-35) to help you
in voting for the right persons, we nevertheless wish to make clear that it is not our
pastoral duty, nor does it fall within our pastoral competence, to name for you the
persons who meet these qualifications best. It is your task, our dear lay faithful, to
inform yourselves of the qualifications of each candidate and to judge how they
conform to the guidelines we have furnished. We can only tell you what kind of
persons you should vote for. We are not entitled to dictate to you whom to vote for.

Encouragement to Various Groups

We wish to encourage non-partisan groups like PPC-RV, VOTE-CARE, NAMFREL, and

similar organizations to carry out voter-education campaigns to inform the people of
the requisite qualities for elective public officials. We also ask the candidates and
their supporters to honestly present the reasons why they or their candidates merit
to be voted for, without however resorting to black propaganda against rival
candidates. We remind everyone that the law of God remains in force during the
campaign period and election time.

We take this occasion to urge the building up of basic ecclesial communities and the
formation of their members in the correct Christian participation in politics.
Elections are always a momentous event in our country. But these critical times
make the forthcoming elections for President, Vice-President, and other elective
officials especially important for our future. The difficulties that have befallen us
are due in large measure to our disregard for God's will in our political life as a
nation. "A person will reap exactly what he plants" (Gal. 6:7). We have planted
seeds of political corruption; we are reaping economic and social troubles. We
have allowed ourselves to be swallowed by the culture of greed for money and
power; we have gotten the leaders that we have deserved by our surrender to evil
election practices. We have sold our future for short term gains; our misdeeds have
produced a harvest of misery, the punishment for our national sins.

If we wish upon ourselves the blessings of the Lord and peace and prosperity, we
should do his will in all things, especially in politics. We should spare no effort to
make these elections honest and meaningful. Let us once and for all rid ourselves
of the policy of the politics of guns, goons and gold and those who practice it. Let
us make every effort to vote first of all, and to vote for the right persons to lead our
country as we enter the third millennium, and let us make sure that the real winners
are declared the winners. Let us vote for the right persons and let us together
protect our ballot.

Our Prayer

Since even our best efforts will come to nothing without the help of God, we invoke
upon our people the grace of the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth (cf.
Ps. 104, 30), and we ask the intercession of Mary, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our Mother, to obtain for us through honest elections the leaders we need. In
this way may our people become a people acceptable to the Lord as we approach
the year of the Great Jubilee in 2000 A.D.

For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines:


Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan


31 January 1998


God proved his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom
On this third Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of John tells us how the Samaritan woman
having found in Jesus the living water she had longed forleft her jar of water by
the well (John 4:28). Like this woman, the stubborn Israelites in the first reading,
who are dying of thirst in the desert, have been led to a rock (Exodus 17:6).
Perhaps we can think of this rock as Christ himself, stricken and afflicted on the
cross but gushing forth with life-giving water, making it possible for Gods people to
cross over the barren desert of hatred, sin and death into the promised land of
fullness of life. Dear sisters and brothers in Christlet us not allow our wells to be
poisoned by bitter water; let us uphold the sanctity of life and make a stand against
death penalty.

We are not deaf to the cries of the victims of heinous crimes. The victims and their
victimizers are both our brothers and sisters. The victim and the oppressor are both
children of God. To the guilty we offer a challenge to repent and repair the harm of
their sins. To the grieving victims, we offer our love, our compassion, our hope.

On the day the death penalty law was repealed by the Philippine Congress on June
24, 2006, the lights were turned on in the colosseum in Rome. History tells us how
many peopleamong them, countless Christian martyrswere publicly executed in
that infamous arena. Perhaps to erase the darkness of inhumanity that the said
colosseum has been associated with, the citizens of Rome have since made it a
point to have it illuminated, each time another country decides to repeal its capital
punishment law. Each illumination has been made to symbolize another
advancement in human civilization. Are we to reverse that advancement by
restoring death penalty again in the Philippines?

It was Ash Wednesday when members of the lower house, on the second reading of
the death penalty bill, outvoted by voice-voting the nays with their ayes. Ironically,
they were captured on television shouting in favor of death with their foreheads
marked with crosses made of ashes. Could they have forgotten what that cross
meant? Could they have missed out the contradiction between their vote and the
crosses on their foreheads, which were supposed to serve as a loud statement of
faith in the God who, for love of us, chose to give up his life for our salvation, rather
than see us perish (John 3:16)?

No doubt, death penalty has been in existence in many countries all over the world.
It is often justified by a principle of justice based on retributionan eye for an eye, a
tooth for a tooth (Matthew 5:3), which Jesus challenged and replaced with the
higher principle of non-retaliation of evil for evil, with justice founded on mercy
(Luke 6:36). We know from history how capital punishment has so often been used
by repressive governments as a way of stifling dissent, or of eliminating those
whom they regarded as threats to their hold on political power. Think, for instance
why Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded, or why Pilate had Jesus crucified.
Think of the thousands of Christian martyrs who were put to death for sheer hatred
for the faith.
To the people who use the Bible to defend death penalty, need we point out how
many other crimes against humanity have been justified, using the same Bible? We
humbly enjoin them to interpret the Scriptures properly, to read them as a
progressive revelation of Gods will to humankind, with its ultimate fulfilment in
Jesus Christ, Gods definitive Word to the world. He came not to abolish the law but
to bring it to fulfilment (Matthew 5:17). Jesus was never an advocate of any form
of legal killing. He defended the adulterous woman against those who demanded
her blood and challenged those who were without sin among them to be the first to
cast a stone on her (John 8:7).

Even with the best of intentions, capital punishment has never been proven
effective as a deterrent to crime. Obviously it is easier to eliminate criminals than
to get rid of the root causes of criminality in society. Capital punishment and a
flawed legal system are always a lethal mix. And since in any human society there
is never a guarantee of a flawless legal system, there is always the great likelihood
that those without capital will get the punishment more quickly because it is they
who cannot afford a good lawyer and a guarantee of due process. As a law, death
penalty directly contradicts the principle of inalienability of the basic human right to
life, which is enshrined in most constitutions of countries that signed the universal
declaration of human rights.

Let us pray fervently for the legislators of our country as they prepare to vote on
death penalty in the Philippine Senate. Let us offer all our Masses for them, asking
our Crucified Lord who offered his whole life, body and blood, for the salvation of
sinners, to touch their consciences and lead them to abolish capital punishment
once and for all.

From the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, 19 March 2017


Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

President, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines