MANILA — Religious groups and civic organizations launched Tuesday a coalition that seeks to ensure that next year's national elections would be clean and transparent.
The coalition Halalang Marangal 2022 is composed of more than 20 church groups and civic organizations.
Members of the coalition urged voters to choose competent and honest leaders, stressing that the winners of next year’s polls would determine the country’s path out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Naghahanap kami ng pinuno na kita niya si Hesus sa iba at maglilingkod sa ating bansa na walang pag-iimbot, mga tunay na pinunong lingkod na may kakayahan, karanasan, malasakit, kabutihan, at katapatan sa mabuting pamamahala,” said Jun Cruz of Sangguniang Laiko.
(We're looking for leaders who see Jesus in others and will serve the country without greed. We're looking for real leaders who have competence, experience, concern for others, goodness, and are faithful to good governance.)
“We should vote for leaders who can provide us clear direction for this country, who can inspire us to truth and decency in life and programs in government. Sana mapili natin ang (we hope we will also choose) leaders whom we can rely on for real peace, justice and for life in this country,” said Fr. Tony Labiao, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, the humanitarian and advocacy arm of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
Caritas Philippines National Director Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo called on "those in power" to create "the conditions that protect people's right to freely choose leaders."
He stressed that it was crucial to get as many eligible voters to register, press the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to comply with all the provisions of the law, and for citizens to be vigilant throughout the entire election process.
"Elections and consent of the govern are the most valuable treasures of democracy," Bagaforo said.
He said Filipinos have a "special responsibility" in the coming elections as the country faces what he described as a "serious moral, economic, health, food security, livelihood and leadership crises."
Labiao also called on the public to avoid vote buying.
"We try to make sure that we don't desecrate our vote by vote buying, pagbebenta ng boto o pandaraya, o pagboto na nakabase sa utang na loob, o dahil sa takot," he said.
The coalition's activities include voter education programs and reviving a digital application that assists voters in finding their precinct.
It will also launch a so-called “truth army”, which will seek to rectify “fake news” online, and monitor the elections.
Kent Sitaca of The Faith Initiative urged the public to be vigilant after President Rodrigo Duterte warned he may deploy the military to maintain order during the elections.
"If it adds to the security, then, well and good. But it’s a different story po kasi kung ito po ay gagamitin sa karahasan laban sa ating mamboboto (if it will be used to harass our voters)," he said.
The coalition supported calls for the extension of the voter registration period, set to end on Thursday, Sept. 30.
Aspiring candidates for the May 9, 2022 elections are scheduled to file their candidacies with the Comelec starting Friday. The filing will run until Oct. 8.
So far, three politicians — Senators Panfilo "Ping" Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, and Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso — have said they will run for president.
Duterte, Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, and Dr. Willie Ong, meanwhile, intend to run for vice president.
— Report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News