CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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If you won’t vote for evil don’t vote at all

MANILA (UCAN): In responding to the widespread accusation that the upcoming May 9 presidential election in The Philippines is fielding such a poor crop of probable candidates that choosing one to work for the common good of the whole country may be a bit like choosing between the devil or the deep blue sea.

In a pastoral statement released on February 3, Being Eucharistic in Life and Deeds, the bishops say voters must be guided by a sense of the common good when choosing their leaders.

“Let us choose those who are truly upright and self-sacrificing, respectful of the dignity of all, and compassionate toward the poor,” the bishops say.

But they also concede that if you cannot find one like that then “not voting is also a valid Christian political choice.”

While the bishops do not name any names, they do say that people should not have to choose to vote for the lesser evil at the election. “Let us reject those who are dishonest, deceitful, self-seeking and unmindful of the poor.”

They point out that voting for the lesser evil is still voting for evil.

Elections in The Philippines are historically tumultuous, with goons, guns and gold often having more sway than the ballot box.

During 2013 midterm election, at least seven people were reported to have died in election-related violence on polling day alone, while at least 60 people were killed in the lead up to election say.

Last year, three people died in election-related violence in the first week of filing for candidacy.

Since a big ask demands a big prayer, the chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, Henrietta de Villa, kicked off her campaign for a dignified and peaceful election with a Mass for an Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Election in Bulacan on January 28.

In urging people to choose their candidates wisely and say no to all forms of vote-buying, she said, “Let us bring back dignity to election campaigns.”

In a different way of saying the same thing, Father Robert Reyes and the chairperson of the Commission on Elections, Andres Bautista, led a group through the streets of Manila with brooms on January 29, urging candidates to be clean and credible.

“This broomstick is a challenge to be part of the cleansing process,” Father Reyes said. “This will also serve as a gentle reminder in case they forget their mandate.”

Bautista said that he was sweeping the streets for the same reason, as his office also wants a clean and credible election process.

In May last year, the Church launched the Thou Shall Not Steal Campaign against vote buying and selling.

The bishops said that trading in votes is the equivalent of selling the dignity not only of yourself, but of the whole country.

But while not voting may be an acceptable option from a Christian point of view, it is difficult to translate it into a political statement—Christian or otherwise, as not voting is usually interpreted as disinterest and the other option of casting an invalid vote is put down to ignorance or stupidity.

 

In addition, in much of the country where voters are being watched carefully by goons with guns, there is little freedom for people at the polling booths either, leaving the discerning voter with the real dilemma of choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea.

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