An appeal of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines to the Members of Congress

We, as citizens of the Philippines, deem it a matter of conscience to support openly the movement for a non-partisan Constitutional Convention.

We recognize the competence of our politicians on Constitutional matters.  But the people have spoken.  And we voice anew that clear mandate that they overwhelmingly expressed in the 1967 plebiscite for a non-partisan Constitutional Convention.  Because we firmly believe that in a democracy, sovereignty resides in the people.

We are encouraged by the statement of Senator Emmanuel Pelaez, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Codes and Constitutional Amendments, that members of Congress should not seek delegate seats in the 1971 Constitutional Convention.  We also praise the position of the other Senators who authorized him to announce that they were not running for delegate positions as published in the Metropolitan dailies, 23 January 1970.

Our people expressed the will for a non-partisan Constitutional Convention by an overwhelming majority because they are aware of the immoral practices that in the past two decades or so have been employed to win elections:  ready-made ballots, the employment of armed goons, the tampering of ballot boxes, fake election returns, mass vote-buying.  Our people are beginning to fear that money and power, not competence, integrity and dedication, are fast becoming the accepted arbiters of national destiny.  And that the norm of conscience is dead.  We notice therefore that among our people there prevails skepticism, even cynicism, about our elections.

The incredible suppression of the free ballot in Batanes is a glaring example of these anomalies.  The news about these unfortunate events have been confirmed by one of the members of our Conference.  At this point, we, the Catholic  Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, as citizens of this country, congratulate the Batanes teachers for their courage, the students for their civic-mindedness, and the Mass Media people for their vigilance.

We likewise give deserved recognition to the positive action taken by His Excellency, the President of the Republic, in assuring the reign of justice in that troubled province.

Our people do not want the candidtates to our Constitutional Convention to win through these anomalous means.  Because then these men would be apt to work in public office not for the common good but rather for their personal interests.  Our people want as delegates to this Convention men who are dedicated to their total welfare — moral, spiritual, economic, social, cultural and political.

We turn, to you, our lawmakers, leaders of our National community.  It is imperative that we maintain the confidence and belief of our people in democracy.  It is vital to our national life that their freedom and dignity be respected.

We in turn pledge you our support.  We pledge our share of the work.  For we all — public officials, religious and civic leaders, and citizens in general — will have to stand before the searing judgment of God.

Respectfully yours in the Name of God for the
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO V. ALBERTO, D.D.
Archbishop of Caceres
President

On the eve of the Opening of the Seventh Congress,
25 January, 1970.

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