Not looking for saints, group seeks ‘Catholic vote’ vs Duterte candidates in May

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 06 2019 03:14 PM

Not looking for saints, group seeks ‘Catholic vote’ vs Duterte candidates in May 1
The Catholic faithful flock to Quiapo Church in Manila for First Friday mass on Jan. 4, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Groups identifying themselves as conservative Catholics will campaign hard against President Rodrigo Duterte’s senatorial candidates, one of their leaders said Wednesday, insisting on a so-called “Catholic vote” in the May elections.

The Philippines’ predominantly Catholic population has not been known to vote as a bloc especially since church leaders do not dictate voting preferences.

But Rizalito David, executive director of Pro-life Philippines Foundation, said like-minded groups would mobilize “conservative” Catholics to reject Duterte’s candidates, especially those supporting the president’s bloody drug war.

More than 5,000 drug suspects have been killed, based on government figures, but human rights groups‘ estimates showed the number to be thrice as high.

“Kung Katoliko ka — tunay na Katoliko ka — hindi mo susuportahan yung EJK (extra-judicial killings),” David told ABS-CBN News.

Duterte’s sustained attacks on the Catholic Church and some bishops and priests, he said, could also galvanize a Catholic vote against administration candidates.

David ran for senator in 2013 under the church-based Kapatiran Party, but was rejected as a nuisance candidate in the two elections that followed.

NEGATIVE CATHOLIC VOTE

Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Tuesday came out with a powerful video compiling Duterte’s insults on the Catholic Church, including statements that mocked the God of Christians as “stupid.”

At end of the video posted on his Facebook account, Villegas said: “The Lord said, ‘Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’ My dear brothers and sisters, are you going to betray God? Are you going to deny your faith by your vote?”

David said the message from Villegas, a former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president, could encourage more Catholics to reject Duterte’s candidates.

“There is a negative Catholic vote,” David said, pegging the number of conservative Catholics to be mobilized at 8 to 10 million.

David said groups such as Pro-life Philippines would come out with a “negative” list of candidates, or those Catholics would be encouraged to ignore in the senatorial election.

A “positive” list will name candidates rejecting extra-judicial killings, and who support the Catholic position on issues such as same-sex marriage, divorce, and euthanasia.

“We will not dictate kung sino lang iboboto pero ito na yung listahan,” David said.

(We will not dictate who they should vote for but we have this list.)

“Hindi tayo naghahanap ng santo. Ang hinahanap natin, sino yung mga pulitiko na magdadala ng mga katuruan ng simbahan sa pulitika? Yan yung mas importante.”

(We are not looking for saints. We are looking for politicians who will bring justice to the Church. That's what is important.)

CREDIBILITY

But such a vote “historically” did not show in previous elections, said Ronald Holmes, president of the polling firm Pulse Asia Research Inc.

“There is no Catholic vote,” he told ABS-CBN News, noting that candidates who backed the highly divisive reproductive health law still won in 2013.

The Catholic Church, he said, would also “find it hard to organize a voting bloc given its own credibility problems, the way the regular clergy (not solely the bishops) are seen by the faithful.”

It also remains to be seen, he said, whether Duterte’s rebuke of church leaders would affect the chances of his candidates, who have not “gone to the extent of attacking the institutional church or its doctrine as Duterte has.”

Lawyer Michael Henry Yusingco, senior research fellow at the Ateneo Policy Center, also played down the idea of a Catholic vote emerging as a result of the president’s criticism. 

But Yusingco described as a “mystery” how many Catholics could separate their religious life from their “civic life.”

“So many of us will believe in mercy, love for fellow man... and yet we would not be moved by the hundreds of thousands of EJKs,” he told ANC’s Early Edition.