IRIGA CITY - The Church should not be maligned for inviting politicians to meet religious congregations during the campaign season as the clergy needs to “educate” its parishioners, a Bicolano priest said Wednesday, shortly after 4 opposition candidates visited a church here.
Otso Diretso bets and devout Catholics Chel Diokno, Romulo Macalintal and Erin Tañada, as well as Muslim civic leader Samira Gutoc sat on the front pews of the St. Agustin of Padua Church here as they paid a courtesy call on parish priest Monsignor Nono Sañado.
The monsignor, who gave each of the 4 candidates a chance to deliver short messages to several parishioners before meeting them in a closed-door session, said the Church should not be maligned for participating in "voter education."
"I am not using the Church. I am educating the Catholic people and I am talking to the Catholics who are my parishioners who are also voters," Señado told ABS-CBN News.
"These parishioners are Filipinos and the Filipinos are parishioners. You cannot separate the citizenship from any religion. That’s why we’re involved in this," he said.
Gutoc said she is thankful for the opportunity to meet Christian voters.
"This is a courtesy visitation to the Church. We feel that they are important actors in voter education," she said.
There is also nothing wrong with a Muslim entering the place of worship of Filipino Catholics, said Gutoc, the lone female and Muslim candidate on the Otso Diretso roster.
"Importante po sa isang verse ng Islam na, ‘To you your own and to me my own religion,’” she said.
"Naipapakita [nito] na ang kapayapaan is possible. Muslim-Christian peace is possible,” she said.
Señado and his parishioners praised the 4 Otso Diretso bets for pushing for the liberty of detained Sen. Leila de Lima who was born and raised in here.
De Lima has been detained since February 2017 due to multiple drug charges filed shortly after she launched congressional investigations against President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.
“We are grateful [for] that message. We are happy that you are moving strongly for our home senator Leila,” Señado said.