The Church Amidst The 2013 Election

By Madel Asuncion
          As the 2013 elections fast approaches, the Church has been proactive in informing, educating and re-instilling the faith among the Filipinos. Consistent efforts have been done by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in order to prepare the nation and guide them through a successful electoral process in keeping with the Catholic faith.
What is PPCRV?
PPCRV serves as a citizen’s arm selected by COMELEC in 1991. The non-partisan organization is a response to faith and advocates for good governance and authentic democracy based on Catholic values. It is their belief that fear of God, love for the country and respect for the environment are fundamental to anyone who desires to govern. And with the right to vote, the citizens are empowered to participate and direct the country’s future.
In line with its goal to form the New Filipino Voter, the organization actively promotes educating the Filipinos with regards to responsible voting. They aim to make the voters understand that they have the power to determine the quality of life that the nation could have as a result to the elections. And so it is vital that they choose wisely and learn how to guard their votes.
Where is PPCRV now?
PPCRV’s efforts to sustain their voter’s education program are mainly focused on addressing the youth. This advocacy brings about the 1st PPCRV NCR Campus Youth Congress with the theme “Kilos Kabataan”.  The Diocese of Pasig was given the honor to accommodate this momentous event last March 8 with Pasig Catholic College as its chosen venue. Significant personalities such as COMELEC Chair Sixto Brillantes, DepEd Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro, FSC, and PPCRV Chair Henrietta de Villa graced the gathering to acknowledge the youth and to motivate over 2,000 students coming from different schools. The organization has also been tapping universities such as FEU, Ateneo, UP and UST to conduct forums on responsible voting.
Series of conventions and trainings were also conducted to further develop and implement the cause of PPCRV starting with the 3-day assembly of the organization’s heads which took place last March 6, 7 and 8. The Diocese of Pasig also called for representatives from each parish to attend a seminar on voter’s education for three consecutive Saturdays (February 23, March 2 and 9). These representatives then integrated their learning in a parochial level last March 16.
Where does the Church and, moreover, the Diocese of Pasig stand with regards to the coming elections?
The encyclical by Pope Paul VI entitled Gaudium Et Spes talks about the state of the Church in the modern world.  Among its messages is the Church’s position in association with the political community.
The Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified in any way with the political community nor bound to any political system. She is at once a sign and a safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person.” (GS 76)
But despite the independence of the Church from the political community, she still actively voices out her concerns especially when the means of the other institution counters the Gospel and her doctrines. The Church has the liberty to preach and pass moral judgment especially when the Catholic social teachings are being compromised. That is why the Church is being proactive in providing education on responsible voting.
The Diocese of Pasig responds to this by initiating a campaign called “I Choose God, I Vote Good” spearheaded by Fr. Jhun Sanchez.
Why is it so important for the Church to be involved in the elections and to have a constant communication with voters?
 According to the 2nd Philippine Trust Index survey dated February 28, 2013, the Church is still the most trusted sector of society with the academe, media and government following behind. This means that the Church has a great capability to influence the public. With this power, the Church aims to advocate the concept of “Charity in Truth” in relation to responsible voting.
Charity is in fact at the heart of the Catholic social doctrines. As stated in Pope Benedict XVI’s 3rd encyclical entitled Caritas En Veritate, charity in truth is the “principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity”. To uphold charity is to prompt people to be courageous in standing for social justice and peace.
          Another concept that is tied to responsible voting and good governance is moral conscience. One’s conscience must be formed based on Gospel messages, Church teachings and one’s own experiences. As mentioned by Fr. Jhun Sanchez in one of his voter’s education talks, morality is deeply rooted in the “Law of Reflection” which simply means that we are created in God’s image. Therefore, everything we do must reflect God’s goodness.
          These messages must be relayed by the Church in order to guide the voters in choosing the right candidates. The future of a nation has always been in the hands of the citizens, and so it is the Church’s responsibility to walk them through this process within the light of Catholic values.
How does the public respond to the involvement of the Church?
As stated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, there is a law on the separation of the Church and the State. Because of this, confusion and protests rise among the public. Many are saying that the Church should not interfere with any political matters such as lawmaking, policy regulations and influencing the people on who to elect. But in this situation, the law is actually being misunderstood.
The Separation of the Church and the State is labeled under Religious Freedom which therefore means that this law simply protects the right of an individual to worship. The Church still has the right to voice out her concerns and the duty to protect Catholic principles whenever they are threatened in the political arena. The Church simply aims to uphold morality and to defend the faith especially with the many challenges presented by the modern-day world.
What are the Church’s aspirations in view of the coming elections?
          The Church, through PPCRV’s initiative, ultimately hopes to obtain a C.H.A.M.P. (Clean, Honest, Accurate, Meaningful and Peaceful) electoral process. To achieve this, PPCRV calls for Filipinos who believe in change and are willing to uplift the nation by guarding the people’s votes. The Church also looks forward to responsible leadership wherein the persons elected to position shall use their God-given wisdom to lead and serve a much stronger nation founded in charity and truth.
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