CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Serve the Philippine people bishops tell vote winners

MANILA (Agencies): Philippine bishops urged the winners of the country’s midterm elections, especially the new senators, to live up to the expectations of the electorate, CBCP News reported on May 14.
 
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, expressed hopes that elected officials would truly work for the service of the people and not for vested interests.
 
“It is our prayer and hope that they will not fail us, nor fail us again,” the chairperson the bishops’ Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, said.
 
Several other Catholic bishops expressed their disappointment with the election results which showed administration-favoured candidates dominating, especially the senatorial races, UCAN reported.
 
“For me and most of the bishops, clergy and religious and Catholic lay leaders, this fact is very disappointing,” Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, said.
 
However, despite reports of vote counting machines not functioning, incidents of vote-buying and grenade explosions, the elections on May 13 were “generally peaceful,” UCAN reported.
 
A spokesperson for the Philippine military, Colonel Noel Detoyato, said there were areas where violence had been anticipated, “but it did not happen.”
 
He said there was “very minimal breaches of the peace or disorder.”
 
Concerns were raised over alleged cases of electoral fraud in some areas due to delays in the transmission of poll results and technical glitches, but authorities said these were addressed.
 
People attributed perceived irregularities to the malfunctioning of many vote-counting machines.
 
However, the Church-based Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting said these were “usual problems” encountered during elections like missing names and malfunctioning machines.
 
“They are being addressed,” Agnes Gervacio, media director of the poll watchdog, said.
 
In the provinces, however, there were reports of rampant vote buying, with CBCP News reporting that The Commission on Elections (Comelec) admitted that incidents in this year’s polls were worse than during the 2016 elections.
 
Comelec commissioner, Rowena Guanzon, also noted that the amount of bribes in exchange for votes had increased.
 
“Reports of vote-buying with pictures of money and shaded sample ballots are just so disheartening,” Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlo, Negros Occidental, lamented.
 
CBCP News reported that Bishop Alminaza observed that some politicians and rich people “don’t really want to alleviate people from poverty so they can always control them.”
 
He said, “I’m having doubts how truly free and informed are the votes cast and how reflective or indicative of the people’s will the results are.” 
 
Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan, in Eastern Samar, said the incidents only showed that “we need to educate our people.”
 
He said, that while “elections (in Eastern Samar province) were generally peaceful, vote buying remained a big problem, even became worse.” 
 
He lamented that many people seemed to have “distorted values,” seeing what is wrong as right “and those who do good are seen as bad.”
 
The mid-term elections were seen as a litmus test for the administration of the president, Rodrigo Duterte.
 
“We must admit that our people still place their trust and future with the present administration,” Bishop Santos said, adding, “Let us pray that they will live up to our expectations and we will not be sorry we have elected them.” 
 
He called on Filipinos to work together for the country’s peace and prosperity, saying, “Our people have spoken. It is their will, and we have to respect it,” 
 
Appealing for unity, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, said, “Peace is attainable when we are all friends,” adding that winning candidates should practice “honesty and integrity.”
 
At least 10 million of the estimated 60 million voters this year were aged between 18 and 24-years-old, while 23 million voters were aged between 25 and 39-years-old.
 
Bishop Valentin Dimoc of Bontoc-Lagawe, called for a start to “nation-building.” Saying that the voters had spoken, he added, “We will now know how they voted for their future.”  

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