An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) warned bishops and priests against openly endorsing candidates in the coming May elections.
“If you will do it publicly, you are crossing borders,” said Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of Pasig, vice president of the bishops’ conference.
He told Radio Veritas 846 in an interview that endorsing candidates openly will have “consequences” that “we do not know.”
The prelate said it is the right of every individual, including bishops and priests, to choose their candidates, but members of the clergy should also take care of their “identity” as Church leaders.
“You can reveal your preference, you can say who your candidate is,” said Bishop Vergara in Filipino. “But because of your identity, you have to persuade other unassumingly, with prudence,” he said.
“It is much better that way,” said Bishop Vergara, adding that a bishop or a priest openly endorsing a candidate can be “crossing borders.”
“What will a priest or a bishop compromise, or even a nun, when he or she is outspoken and perhaps uses a pulpit to campaign for somebody during this elections? What will be at stake?” said the prelate.
He said Church leaders should always take into account the mission and advocacies of the Church that might be compromised if a priest or a bishop openly campaigns for a candidate.
Several priests, nuns, and religious people have endorsed the candidacy of Vice President Leni Robredo and her running mate former senator Francis Pangilinan.
A group calling itself “Pari Madre Misyonero Para Kay Leni” said in a statement that Robredo and Pangilinan “best fit the job” to lead the country.
“With this, we express our full support for their candidacy in the upcoming national elections,” said the group, which claimed to have at least 500 members.
Another CBCP official earlier clarified that the endorsement done by a Catholic lay people of Robredo’s presidential bid is not an endorsement of the Church as an institution.
Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Permanent Committee on Public Affairs of the bishops’ conference, said every voter has the right to choose his or her candidate.
He said the endorsement of the Council of the Laity of the Philippines, or the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas, of the candidacy of Robredo should not be viewed as “block voting” of the Catholic Church.
Father Secillano said the Church does not dictate people who to vote for during elections “because nuns, priests, and bishops are also voters, we cannot dictate them who to vote for.”
The priest also reminded members of the clergy not to support candidates whose platforms are not consistent with the teachings of the Church.
“If the would do it, the Church might be compromised because candidates have views that are contrary to the teaching and advocacy of the Church,” said Father Secillano.
“It would then appear that the candidates they endorsed are against the Church’s teaching,” he added.
He said it would be better for Church leaders to let the laity endorse the candidates, and priests and bishops “to just keep their choices a secret.”
He said it is consistent with the call of the Church for the establishment of “circles of discernment” where Church leaders act as guides in the decision-making process of the community.
Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila earlier urged the faithful to form “circles of discernment” ahead of the national elections.
“I suggest that we form ‘circles of discernment’ so that we can listen and follow the will of God,” he said in an interview in November.
“I also pray that we go into a serious study of the programs and platforms of each candidate,” he said, adding that it would be good to review history and learn from it.