Elections 2004: The Pastoral Challenge


Christian Responsibility in Philippine Politics

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR

The campaign period has already started and the election fever is spreading throughout the country.

Every time you watch TV, or listen to the radio, or read the newspapers, the topic the dominates is the coming national and local elections.

The question that we should address: What is our responsibility as Christians vis-à-vis

Philippine politics?


Analysis of the Philippine Political Culture &

Electoral Process. Election/Post-Election



Our Responsibility as Christians vis-à-vis

Philippine Politics

Philippine Politics and Electoral Process

Politics & Elections

Politics is more than the election.

It is the art of governance, which include the making and of implementing laws.

Politics includes the process of putting people in positions of governance – the electoral process.

Thus, in talking about politics we cannot avoid talking about the elections.

Elections – an essential component of the democratic system. It gives the citizens the opportunity to choose their own leaders. Without election, there can be no real democracy.

While most Filipinos tend to take the elections seriously, yet there are also many who have become cynical about elections. They doubt whether it is really a true expression of genuine democracy.

Elections Philippine-Style

“A mega-entertainment circus for the public”

(CBCP Pastoral

Exhortation on Philippine Politics)

“A Popularity Contest “

“A useless competition for power among the various factions within the elite class”

An analysis of the kind of candidates running for election and the voting patterns of the electorate will tells us the nature of Philippine politics and electoral process.

Candidates for Local Elections

(City, Province, Congressional District)

Mostly traditional politicians belonging to political clans or dynasties (including their wives, children, etc). Source of income: land, real-estate, businessmen, logging, mining, gambling, etc.

Celebrities (movie, sports, media etc.)

Cause-oriented politicians, either independent or supported by ideological groups (Bayan Muna,

Akbayan, etc).

Candidates: National Elections

GMA & The K4

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

(Economist, incumbent, daughter of former President Macapagal)

Noli de Castro, Lito Lapid , Bong

Revilla, Sonny Jaworski, Sonny

Osmena, Miriam Santiago, Pia

Cayetano, Mercado, Biazon, et al.

(a combination of celebrities and

Trapos and balimbings)

Strengths devout Catholic

Highly educated (PhD in economics)

Hard-working and determined

Competent cabinet (that includes representatives from Civil Society)



Does not keep her word

Flip-flops on key issues

Perceived as perpetually campaigning

Decisions based on political expediency and popularity rather than principles


Temperamental (mataray)

Controversial husband



Fernando Poe, Jr (Actor)

Loren Legarda, Enrile, Tatad, Jinggoy

Estrada, Boots Anson Roa, Jamby

Madrigal, Lim, Pimentel, et al.

(a combination of celebrities, recyled

Trapos identified with Marcos &


Supported by Honasan and Horacio



Mass appeal especially to lower classes

High Emotional Quotient

Close ties with Marcoses,

Cojuangco, & Estrada

Non-trapo & clean image

Support from movie industry



No political experience, poor qualifications

Lacks experience in consensus building

Heavy beer drinker & history of getting into fights

Perception that he will be a puppet to Trapos

Roco & ANP

Raul Roco (Lawyer, causeoriented politician)

Herminio Aquino (Uncle of

Ninoy Aquino), Yasay, Bong

Coo, et al.

Supported by PROMDI (Lito

Osmena) and REPORMA (De





Outstanding Track record in government service

Charismatic personality



Difficulty in fielding local candidates

Weak organization

Limited election funds


Tends to do things all by himself

Ping Lacson

Lacson (former military, PNP chief, Erap boy)

No vice-president, no senate slate

Supported by LDP Aquino wing


Definite platform of government

Support of he Filipino-

Chinese community


Non-trapo image

Can command blind loyalty



Aloof, detached, unpredictable

Kuratong rubout case

Association with fugitives from justice charged with Dacer case

Rumored links with narcopolitics

Reports of alleged illgotten well stashed in US

The Electorate

A,B,C: The Upper Class/Middle Class (30%)

Can be expected to vote intelligently and according to their conscience

Can not easily be swayed by popularity

Can be critical, cynical & frustrated with the electoral process

D, E: Lower Class (70%)

Many tend to vote according to popularity

Can be beholden to their “patrons”

Can easily sell their votes

Youth Vote – 18-24 (35%)

Voting Patterns

We have seen how many voters are influenced in choosing certain candidates not out of conscience but because of family relationships. We also know that the popularity of a candidate (often in another field of work such as sports, TV and movies) or the prospects of political and economic rewards, money and gifts--and a wrong sense of utang na loob--are strong factors in people's voting behavior. Competence, honesty, personal integrity and an acceptable program of government are not primary considerations. This is why in their campaigns politicians cater to what the voters want in terms of entertainment and gifts of cash or kind.

(CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics)

Nature of our Electoral Process

“ More than ever, political patronage, payoffs, and personalities dominate our electoral process, not principles, party platforms and genuine people’s


CBCP Pastoral Statement on the coming 2004 elections

Nature of Philippine Politics

Elitist Politics

Patronage Politics

Politics of Personalities rather than Principles &


Popularity, Prestige

Very weak party system

What to Expect during the campaign

Negative ad campaign (TV, newspapers)

Political rallies as Entertainment (sing & dance with politicians and movie stars)


Collection of Permit to Campaign


Delivery of “goods & services” to barangays (especially depressed areas)

Participation of politicians in religious activities (fiestas, masses, baptism, retreats, weddings, etc.)

Assassinations, harassments of candidates & campaigners

“The campaign period turns the Philippine scene into a mad circus, a vast entertainment plaza. Candidates will, during this period, do whatever their audience bids them to do--in sharp contrast to their deafness to the same people's cries for attention once they are in office. They will dance, clown, kickbox, sing, use gutter language--anything to sell themselves and heighten "name recall." In short, they do everything except educate the electorate on issues. They hire expensive advertizing agencies to polish up their image, often without regard to the truth, and to produce sound-bites and one-liners that will go over well in political rallies and quick interviews on radio and television. All of which only serve to worsen our personality-oriented brand of politics.”

(Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics)

People take advantage of the campaign period to ask donations for every conceivable "project" from the candidates who are pressured to give under pain of losing valuable votes. This in turn forces candidates to solicit or accept contributions from vested interests who expect a return after the elections. The same goes with the party in power: It misuses government funds and other resources for electioneering purposes. When later those guilty become vulnerable to prosecution, they whitewash investigations with the help of proteges previously deployed in strategic agencies, even go to the extent of legislating amendments to

"decriminalize" their violations. (Pastoral Exhortation)

What to expect on Election day

Generally peaceful

The usual flying voting & vote buying

Harassment & ballot snatching in remote areas

Dagdag-bawas operation

Winning at any cost and by any means--this has become the paramount principle governing candidates and parties in their election bid. This translates on election day itself into vote-buying, the use of "flying voters", the intimidation of voters for the opposition, violence, even murder; and, for turning already cast votes in one's favor, into bribery of election officials, deliberate miscounting of votes, tampering with ballots and election results. The genius and imagination required for cheating are truly stupendous and are exercised to the full--one would only wish they were used for more noble purposes than achieving undeserved victories

for undeserving candidates. (CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics)

Confusion is the order of the day in many a community. And it has to be with the final canvassing of election results and the proclamation of winners, as has already been said, taking an unduly long time to happen. Every loser cries "foul!", declares himself cheated, and election results are not accepted. The

COMELEC takes its own sweet time deciding on election protests so that when initial verdicts are finally overturned, cheating anomalies corrected, those belatedly declared winners are barely able to assume their seats before the new election

takes place. (CBCP Pastoral Exhortation…)

Possible outcome: Local Elections

The local government will continue to be dominated by traditional politicians belonging to political dynasties & clans. Some actors will continue to be elected especially in urban centers.

The congress will likewise be dominated by traditional politicians from political clans & dynasties and also from land-owning and business elite

Elections of more progressives in the party list

(Bayan Muna, Akbayan, etc.)

Possible outcome: National Elections

Scenario 1: FPJ & Noli de Castro

Scenario 2: Roco

Scenario 3: GMA & Noli de Castro

Scenario 4: Ping Lacson

Scenario 1: victory for FPJ, NDC

President (FPJ), vice-President (Noli), senators: showbiz with some trapos (Erap & Marcos boys)

Weak, inexperienced, Incompetent & indecisive leadership, manipulated by Erap forces

The silent President? Release of Estrada?

Lack of business confidence, inability to face the challenge of globalization, further deterioration of the economy

A sense of hopelessness among the middle-forces, more brain-drain.

Disenchantment among the masses, the idol/messiah fails to come up to their expectation due to incompetence and lack of political will (the

Emperor has no clothes)

He could be overthrown by people power or coup if he proves to be a disaster.

Scenario 2: GMA & Noli

Election protests from FPJ’s & Roco’s supporters

(suspicion that GMA used government funds, machinery, & Comelec to win)

More of the same?

Continuity of previous program & policies (Pro-US,

Peace Process, development program, death penalty, strong republic)

Charter change, federalism, parliamentary system ?

Scenario 3: Roco

A strong political will that could inspire business confidence

Competent & principled leadership that could rally the nation towards development

Will he adopt liberal/feminist legislative agenda

(legalization of abortion & divorce)?

Scenario 4: Lacson Wins

“Triumph of Narco-politics?”

Growth of a police state – salvaging, etc.

“kamay na bakal” -- iron rule

Political instability and division

Another people power?

Expansion of the revolutionary movement?

Whoever wins the

Election will face the perennial problems of

Philippine Society:

The Dark Side of Globalization

Poverty & Inequality


The Moro Problem & the MILF Armed Struggle

The Armed Struggle waged by the CPP/NDF/NPA

Restive Military, Coup Attempts

Politics after the Elections

Exclusive preserve of elected politicians. Passive citizenry

Breaking of election promises

Self-serving laws and policies – politics of selfinterest (laws to benefit the politicians, big business and foreign capitalists)

Perpetuation of corruption and patronage politics (to recoup election expenses, and prepare for the next election)

“ In the Philippines, (politics) degenerated into an arena where the interests of the powerful and rich few are pitted against those of the weak and poor many.

It interferes with the administration of justice and the equal application of the law, heavily weighted as it most patently is on the side of the politically connected.

Political debts are paid with appointments to high offices of those to whom elected officials are indebted, blind loyalty counting as the most important criterion in the selection of public officials--even for government agencies mandated to be independent by the Constitution.

The bureaucracy is packed with political protegees, many of whom do nothing except to collect their salaries on the middle and end of each month.

Thus the well-intentioned among career officials and employees in government become demoralized early or withdraw into silence or resign altogether. And those who opt to continue despite disillusionment are only too often harassed or eventually coopted into the system. “

(CBCP Pastoral Letter on Politics)

Our Responsibility as Christians

What is our responsibility as Christians vis-à-vis politics?

We can either ignore it or get actively involve.

Some would dismiss it as a futile & useless exercise that won’t make a difference in the life of the people, especially the poor, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” (ignore it)

Others would look at it as a critical period whose outcome will affect the future. (respond to its challenge)

Pastoral Action to Transform Politics

The main challenge: what pastoral action can we undertake to transform Philippine politics:

Catechesis and Political Education for the Electorate

Evangelization & Moral Formation of Politicians

Mobilizing the parish grassroots network: BECs &

Renewal movements for political education and monitoring the conduct of elections

Participation in Political Action beyond the elections

Addressing the problem of poverty – development

& poverty alleviation programs

Educating the Electorate

The political culture: people tend to vote according to popularity, patronage, regional & financial considerations.

The challenge: How can we educate the electorate, especially in our pastoral areas (parish, community,

BECs, etc.) so that they will become critical of the present political culture & candidates, and vote wisely according to their conscience?

The task: conscientization and political education

Catechesis and Political Education.

“ The most basic work that has to be done is catechesis on politics or

Christian education in politics. At present there is a tragic dichotomy between our faith-life as a people and our political culture. This dichotomy prevents our faith from having a say in our political activities. As a result our political culture is characterized by deception, dishonesty, fraud, violence, corruption, pay-offs, and patronage. Yet most of the participants in the political process call themselves Christians. Worse, politicians take advantage of their

Christianity to promote their interests, as when they are photographed in churches before election time or act as sponsors in baptisms and weddings in order to widen their circle of supporters .

(Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics)

The Necessity of Voting for the Right People

“However, it is also of the utmost importance that we vote the right people to office. But who are the right persons to vote for? Whom does God want us to designate to become bearers of that awesome authority which emanates from him (cf. Rom. 13:1)? …

In choosing our leaders in the political community it would be most logical to look first at the platforms and programs of the different political parties. But unfortunately in our country there are practically no differences in the platforms and programs of the different parties. Proof of this is the ease with which candidates even for the highest offices transfer parties or form alliances when their personal interests suit it. We need to focus our attention on the qualities needed by our elective public officials. (CBCP)

Evangelization & Moral Formation of Politicians:

Political culture: politicians run for office for their own selfish interest, without any clear vision and program.


Hitting the conscience of politicians, inculcating the value of service, honesty and integrity

Promoting principled politics: pro-poor, prodevelopment, pro-peace, etc.

Mobilizing Church’s grassroots network

To participate in political education, election monitoring (NAMFREL, PPCRV), etc.

This presupposes the presence of:

 a network of BECs in the barangay, sitio and neighborhood level

Renewal movements (CFC, BLD, etc)

Working for Honest & Credible Elections

We must make sure first of all that those who become our leaders in government are those whom we have in fact freely chosen to lead us. We must work for HONEST

ELECTIONS. We should make sure that people are able to freely vote for those whom they wish, that all forms of cheating are eliminated and that the votes are counted correctly from the precinct level to the final canvassing, so that the rightful winners are proclaimed and assume office. We should not allow candidates to steal public offices they do not deserve to occupy while depriving us of the services of those whom we have chosen to serve us.


What difference will this make to the electoral process?

Very little:

If there has been no previous evangelizing, organizing and conscientization work among the people and communities in the parish.

Education/Conscientization is a task that needs to be carried out before and after elections. It should be sustained and continuous effort.

But catechesis on politics cannot have any lasting effect if done only on the occasion of elections. It should be done as part and parcel of regular catechesis in the family, in schools, in Basic

Ecclesial Communities, covenant communities of lay people, religious organizations --"in season, out of season," or as the

PPC-RV slogan has it, "panghabang panahon". Through catechesis on politics, people should be led to see the vital link between their life of faith and their political activity. They should be taught how to evaluate their options in politics to see whether or not they are in accord with the Gospel and the teachings of the Church. Catechesis should enable them to

express their faith and be guided by their faith in their politics.

(Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics)

Dealing with Cynicism

“People have become so cynical of government, of Congress and of the electoral process itself, that often they lose sight of the relevance of their vote to their life or future and sell it for momentary financial gain. Thus, despite the pleas of the

Church and other responsible groups, election after election, for citizens to be vigilant fiscalizers of government expenditures, many have become indifferent to corruption or themselves want to have "a piece of the action." Despite too the guidelines regularly issued for the principled choice of candidates, many an undeserving man or woman still, just as regularly, gets voted into

office “ (Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics

Keeping alive the Hope

The increasing cynicism and hopelessness among the Middle-forces and intelligent voters: (if this is how the majority votes – according to popularity and patronage rather than competence – then we might as well migrate to another country)

The challenge: provide hope – that their votes still matter, that they can still make a difference, if not now, perhaps in the future.

Preparing for the Worst

Anything can happen after the election. If the worst-case scenario happens, then we can be in for a long period of stagnation, demoralization and instability

Challenge: even in the midst of this worsening situation, how can we continue our task of evangelization, education & conscientization, organizing and mobilizing people for social transformation?

A wider perspective

Politicians can help make this country a better place to live in if they have competence, integrity and commitment to the common good.

But they are not the Messiah or savior – we should not expect too much from them. Elections do not solve our basic problems.

In the long run, it will be the people, especially the poor, awakened and empowered who can transform our society

Political Action Beyond Election

Politics is not just about the elections. It is the whole process of governance and law-making.

The role of the citizens and Christians is not limited to the election period.

Involvement in politics should go beyond the election.

This means continuing political education, lobbying and participation in the decision making process, monitoring the conduct and policies of public officials, etc.

Exercising a Prophetic Role in Politics

We cannot leave politics to politicians alone. As citizens we have to constantly participate in the political process even outside the elections.

This requires vigilance regarding the conduct of public officials and the laws and policies that they implement.

Any instance of corruption, abuse and injustice should be opposed and criticized.

We have to oppose laws and policies that are harmful and that does not promote the common good (death penalty, summary execution, abortion, contractualization of labor, etc.)

We must constantly pressure the government and the revolutionary forces to continue the peace process.

We can join in prayer rallies, marches to express our views.

Peace Advocacy

Mass Mobilization

Ultimate Challenge: Addressing the

Problem of Poverty

The outcome of the election rests on the vote of the poor. Yet, it is also the poor, the Masa who can easily be manipulated, whose votes can easily be bought, and who tend to vote according to patronage and popularity.

There can be no genuine democracy for as long as majority of the people remain poor and ignorant.

The political culture can only be transformed not just by education program aimed at the poor but also by poverty alleviation program.

This is a task that goes beyond the election period.

Part of a long term strategy for transforming the political terrain is to develop a grassroots network of BECs and renewal movements.

These communities need to be formed into prophetic, worshipping and serving communities capable of transforming society.

These communities must undergo the process of sustained political education and economic development.

Their activities should be carried out not only during election season but before and beyond it.

Special Challenge for Religious

Educators, Teachers & Catechists

Your greatest contribution – political education

Your students are will be the voters and candidates of the future

You must teach them to vote wisely and according to their conscience.

You must inculcate the values of service, integrity, honest, competence and love of country.

You should help form your students that they grow up to be better Christians, better citizens and better public officials.