CBCP Statement on the Coming 2001 Elections
1. We are truly at the crossroads in our journey as a nation. We must now again elect our political leaders. This could be a time of grace for our country, or it could be a time of eventual sorrow. It could start an era of political renewal, or it could only perpetuate the old traditional policies. The Lord is offering us a choice. “Today… I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse” ( Deut 30:19).
2. Recent events in our history have sadly and painfully confirmed what we, the Bishops of the Philippines, said in 1997: “Philippine politics – the way it is practiced – has been most hurtful to us as a people. It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving full development.”
3. Our political culture is infected with a destructive virus, the virus of political patronage, pay-offs, and personalities. This kind of culture is the playground of trapos . It does not require moral principles as qualifications. It only requires money, popularity, and the ability to exploit the dreams of the poor through empty promises and empty rhetoric.
4. The issues of the coming elections are the same moral issues that People Power 2001 brought to the streets in various parts of the country. They are about corruption, the use of power for the self or for friends, plunder, the instrumentalization of the poor for one’s own gain, lack of integrity, a disregard of the moral truth, the lack of a sense of and fidelity to the common good, the lack of fidelity to commitments. What we have learned is this fundamental and unassailable truth. Politics cannot be divorced from morality. Political leaders should not lead if they are not true to moral principles.
5. To renew politics and make it work for the common good, moral qualifications are needed. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves crucial questions: Have we really learned the lesson of People Power? Shall we elect leaders who dismiss moral principles for the sake of power or wealth or friendship? Shall we elect leaders who do not have the moral courage to choose the common good over narrow loyalties or self-interest?
6. If we choose leaders without the necessary moral qualities, they shall prove themselves to be a curse to justice, peace and true development in our country. This was so in the past, this could be so in the future. But if we choose leaders who are morally qualified, then we choose blessings for our country. Ours is the choice. We must, therefore, choose and act not according to party loyalty, political patronage, or popularity, but according to an informed and right conscience.
7. What moral qualifications then should we look for in the candidates that we choose? They are the same qualities that the Bishops of the Philippines have insisted on at every election. Choose candidates who have the following moral qualities:
• Competence. Competence is not only about knowing what to do, about being intelligent and smart in the art of politics. It is not about using one’s intelligence to exploit people and the political system for one’s own gain, or to subvert the truth, or enrich oneself immorally without being caught. Competence has to do with knowing what is right, and being able to distinguish between right and wrong, with having the skill and determination to do what is right. In this sense, competence is moral wisdom.
• Integrity. Integrity is about being righteous, being honest, being true to one’s convictions and principles. Integrity is about being faithful to one’s oath as a public servant or as a married person. In sum, integrity is about following, in word and in deed, the ways of God through public service.
• An Abiding Sense of the Common Good. One who is corrupt is not only dishonest, he sacrifices the public good for his own interests, or the interests of his family. For such a leader, his political party, his family, his friends are more important than the good of the country. But politicians in the true sense are public servants. They serve the public good. Their paramount interest is the public good. Their passion is to serve the people.
• Solidarity with the Poor. This solidarity is not about simply being friendly to the poor, not about exploiting their needs by giving dole-outs and gifts rather than justice. Solidarity with the poor is about being in touch with the poor, being sensitive to their needs, being active in their liberation, and dismantling the structures in government and in society that bind the poor to poverty. Solidarity is love of preference for the poor.
8. Such moral qualities are absolutely necessary for the leaders that we choose. That is why the Bishops of the Philippines have many times insisted on choosing leaders who are maka-Diyos, maka-tao, and maka-bayan.
9. Furthermore, choose leaders with political programs that will address the basic problems of our country, namely, peace, justice, and development. Corruption is one face of injustice. It takes away billions of pesos from development projects into the pockets of the corrupt. The drive for peace is similarly a drive for justice and development. We need leaders who not only promise these but will have the competence, the integrity, the passion for the common good, and solidarity with the poor that will enable them to deliver their program of good government effectively.
10. To help renew politics, make your vote count. Actively cooperate with and assist NAMFREL, PPCRV, VOTECARE, and similar organizations of civil society that strive to make the elections honest, orderly, peaceful, and efficient.
11. We, therefore, need to heed the voice of God. In these coming elections, we are given the choice between blessing and curse. Let us choose blessing. Let us choose new life for our country. May the Holy Spirit of Wisdom enlighten our choices. May our Blessed Mother Mary, Seat of Wisdom, guide us.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
+ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO, O.M.I, D.D. Archbishop of Cotabato CBCP President
24 March 2001