A Catholic priest said clerics are morally obliged to denounce evil, lies and oppression in politics.
"We cannot reneged on that duty even if it means being pilloried publicly. We would rather risk being criticized for doing what we believe is right than be fence-sitters earning the praise of a few,"Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said in a Facebook post.
With regard to clerics endorsing candidates, he said, clerics will run the risk of being partisan if they do this.
"By endorsing candidates, clerics run the risk of being partisan. Partisanship implies division. But clerics are supposed to be sources of unity in the community. They are supposed to foster, among people, peace and harmony based on justice," said Secillano citing the Code of Canon Law 287.
That’s why, he said, the role of clerics in the socio-political sphere is merely to guide voters by educating and forming their consciences.
Secillano added that the Church “forces” on the people not the candidates but the values and platforms that are in accord with church teachings, specifically, the Catholic Social Teachings and Gospel values.
He also said that while the vote of an individual cleric is an exercise of his right, asking others to vote for his candidate may be violative of pertinent church policies.
Secillano said Canon Law 287 states, “Clerics are not to play an active role in political parties....unless in the judgment of the competent ecclesiastical authority, this is required for the defence of the rights of the Church or to promote the common good."
However, he said, the prohibition is not absolute as there’s a qualifying paragraph that opens a window of direct involvement if only to defend the rights of the Church and to promote the common good.
"Is there already a precedence that this happened? I argue that even in the absence may be of any precedence in this regard, the fact that it is possible should not shock the public if that indeed happens," Secillano said.
"However, in the absence of the judgment of competent ecclesiatical authority/ies for direct political partisanship, the safer and more prudent route for clerics is to remain focused on issues that affect our people and to let people decide, after a period of formation, discernment and prayer, who among the candidates are worthy of their votes," he added.
Secillano said nuns and seminarians are not bound by the prohibition on partisanship.
"For clarity’s sake, the Code of Canon Law, as cited above, only mentions clerics, therefore, it is safe to assume that they are not bound by the prohibition on partisanship, ergo, endorsement," he said.
Meanwhile, CBCP President Kalookan Bishop Pablo David said the faithful should vote for those that will be able to continue the spirit of the People Power Revolution.
"We must choose the candidates that can maintain and strengthen democracy in the country, follow the law, and respect the rights and dignity of every person," he said in an online forum.
David said voters should go for candidates that know how to listen to the cries of his people, especially the poor; who pro-God, pro-people, pro-country, pro-environment, and pro-life among others.