The People’s Choice Movement 10 senatorial candidates for the May 2019 elections will win if the lay people of the churches, not only Roman Catholic Church (RC), will truly campaign, vote and protect their votes for them without reservation.
The lay people selected 10 out of 32 senatorial candidates based on these criteria: “Character & Honor, Competence & Abilities, Faithfulness to public service, and Faithfulness to God, the Constitution and the laws.”
The People’s Choice Movement says: the “10 best senatorial candidates that our country and people need during these times” are Makabayan candidate Neri Colmenares, independent candidate Grace Poe and Otso Diretso candidates Gary Alejano, Bam Aquino, Chel Diokno, Samira Gutoc, Pilo Hilbay, Romy Macalintal, Mar Roxas and Erin Tañada.
The lay people should really feel the electoral situation which was conveyed to them by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) statement, released last January 28, 2019, an excerpt states:
“The midterm election on May 13 is crucial. In our country today the checks and balances in the government are being undermined. So far the senate is the institution in the government that is holding out as our country is inching towards total control. It is very crucial therefore that we elect candidates who are principled, courageous and who have the common good as their main concern and not their own political interests.”
RC Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said, “Our lay leaders, with the People’s Choice Movement, have done their work of discernment. Now is the task for all the lay faithful to campaign the deserving candidates so as to counter the money and the political machineries that the TRAPO politicians are using. There are still two months for all to do this particular exercise of the Christian faith.”
The message is clear.
The People’s Choice Movement “10 best candidates” are deserving candidates. The lay people of the Philippine Churches must campaign and safeguard their votes. The task of the lay people is not only “vote-getting” for the 10 candidates, but also they should resist fraud and terrorism.
In “vote-getting,” the lay people shall ensure that the basic Christian communities in urban and in the hills will be reached out. They can do this because the Churches, especially the RC Church, Aglipayan Church, the Protestant and Evangelical Churches, have satellite or outstation chapels even in the remote areas of the country. The key persons in this campaign are still the lay people in the parishes and local churches in all dioceses, jurisdictions and conferences around the country.
If the elections are done in a free, fair and honest manner, the lay people can deliver win votes to the 10 candidates. However, elections in the Philippines are marred with fraud and violence and the rule of guns, goons and gold. The opportunity for the 10 candidates to win in this situation is slim. The lay people must resist fraud and terrorism.
The lay people must see and be convinced that President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime, through the Local Government Units (LGUs), Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Philippine National Police will not just sit, look and listen during elections. The Duterte administration is fighting hard to ensure its candidates will win in the May elections. Duterte is thinking of charter change and federalism after May elections. His candidates must win by hook or by crook for charter change and federalism to push through—a charter change characterized by unli-power and unli-wealth and no accountability to those in power. The Duterte government will use government funds, resources, facilities and COMELEC officers and personnel to dominate the electoral campaigns and processes, as have been seen with his former aide’s use of government programs as part of his campaigns.
In the provinces, especially in the barangays, the posters, streamers and other campaign materials of the opposition candidates, who are part of the 10 candidates, are prohibited and/or intentionally removed by the people who are working for the Duterte regime. This is already unfair and unjust.
In some areas, if not all, the opposition candidates are denied of the use barangay halls and municipal plazas as their campaign rally areas. Usually, the LGUs officers and personnel, including the AFP and PNP, of the Duterte regime invent many reasons in denying the opposition candidates to campaign freely.
During elections, “vote-buying” is rampant. The local administration candidates, especially candidates running for mayor and councilors, are the operators of this ‘vote-buying’ scheme for local to national posts. They have their barangay political leaders and wards that will ensure that those who received the “sample ballots and money” will follow their instructions, including signs and counter-signs during the voting period.
The other maneuvering is the “harassment and threats” made by the state forces. The voters who are identified to vote for the opposition candidates will be threatened and tagged as “communists or terrorists” supporter. This act of terrorism will disenfranchise the voters. It will be very true in all polling precincts in Mindanao and Abra where the AFP and PNP considered as “hotspots” and to be controlled by the COMELEC. The AFP and PNP will become the personnel of the COMELEC that will administer the elections. The provinces in Bicol, Samar and Negros will be also declared as election “hotspots”.
The COMELEC will play a key role in proclaiming the winning candidates. The candidates who are engaged in fraud and unfair electoral processes could be declared winners and let the losing candidates file a formal complaints or protests to the proper bodies. Electoral protests are usually resolved within three years or more.
Thus, the lay people who choose the 10 best candidates must not only vote for them but to protect their votes. They must expose and condemn “vote-buying” and terrorism. They must be willing to participate in mass protests either in electoral tribunal and marches on the streets.
The midterm elections on May 13 is crucial indeed.
But, if the people are denied to vote freely with fairness and honesty, the lay people should not stop to find solution of the “checks and balances in the government” through elections. They must participate in people’s struggle towards genuine democracy, towards genuine progress, towards a just and lasting peace.