President Benigno S. Aquino III recently delivered his final State of the Nation Address. The count-down has begun to the next national elections in 2016. We thank God whose mighty hand is at work in our history for the gains we have made. We implore his pardon for our faults and failings. We call on his unending mercy for the tremendous work that must yet be done.

Do not forget the poor

While there are figures to prove that investments have risen and that economic fundamentals are strong, as pastors, we are deeply concerned with the inclusiveness of economic gain. Government and corporate figures remain items of cold statistics until they are translated into better lives by those now most disadvantaged.

End political dynasties

It is regrettable that Congress has, despite prompting by the Filipino people themselves, failed to pass a law that gives life to the Constitutional rejection of political dynasties. Until Congress defines what dynasties are in a manner that fulfills the policy embodied in the fundamental law, we have nothing more but an inert provision of the Constitution that accusingly points at the refusal of Congress to act!

Peace for Mindanao and for all

We take heart from the earnestness with which our lawmakers address the problems of Muslim Mindanao, in fact, of all Mindanao — for we have always insisted that a peaceful and just settlement must be acceptable to all: Muslims and non-Muslims alike, for Mindanao is bountiful, rich and promising enough for all to share. The on-going disagreement between supporters of different versions of the organic law for the region are not worrisome. If anything, they are proof of the earnestness with which our Legislature addresses nettlesome issues. There would be nothing more prejudicial to the peace process than a resurgence of violence and lawlessness. We urge all to allow the institutions of our democracy to craft a solution, in dialogue with all, to this challenge.

People’s Primary

As the political engine is revved for the presidential elections, we urge our lay persons to be actively engaged in the apostolate of evangelizing the political order. The CBCP was recently apprised of a lay initiative to screen candidates, to listen to them and to endorse those the movement deems worthy of support. While the CBCP and the Catholic Church in the Philippines will NEVER endorse a particular candidate or a particular party, leaving the consciences of voters sovereign in this respect, in keeping with long-accepted moral teachings of the Church, we commend efforts such as these to arrive at a collective discernment on the basis of Catholic standards and principles, that are not necessarily sectarian!

Political Education

We encourage debate among the candidates, and we hope that our dioceses will organize public fora and debates that allow the public to familiarize themselves with the positions, platforms, plans, beliefs and convictions of our candidates. All of these meetings, however, must be permeated by a genuine sense of fairness, consecration to the truth and, above all, charity.

May we all heed the voice of the Good Shepherd who, without fail, leads us to verdant pastures to give us rest!

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Intramuros, Manila, August 11, 2015, Memorial of Santa Clara de Assisi.

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

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