Manila (Fides Service) - A HOPE campaign for Honest and Peaceful Elections has been launched in view of May 10 elections in the Philippines by Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, Archbishop of Cebu City, and Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales of Manila.
The campaign supported by various civil and religious groups intends to increase awareness among the electorate and warn about risk of fraud and violence. Presenting the campaign Archbishop Rosales recalled that the May 10 elections are crucial for the country: “Every election is a necessary democratic exercise, voting in a fundamental right. Democracy cannot come from corrupt, dishonest or violent elections”, the Archbishop said explaining the reasons for the HOPE campaign.
Archbishop Rosales added, addressing “all Filipinos of good will who love their country ”: “We must demand full transparency from the electoral authorities. We must not let ourselves be robbed of our vote with fraudulent means. We must stop those who want to buy our vote. We must reject all attempts to incite violence or use force to obtain power”.
In the meantime the National Office for Social action and Justice and Peace belonging to the Bishops’ Conference has launched a campaign to inform voters “Being selective about whom we vote for”, which can be down-loaded at www.nassa.org.ph. The programme provides information via mobile telephone on candidates and programmes with regard to important questions such as the death penalty, environment, globalisation and abortion.
A contribution towards transparent information is being given by the Philippine Centre Investigation of Journalism which helped to oust president Joseph Estrada. It offers information on the elections and candidates at a web site www.i-site.ph.
In a Pastoral Letter titled “Building the Nation with elections. Guidelines for Catholics”. distributed on 25 April in parishes across the country, the Bishops say that the vote is “an opportunity to transform society, by electing leaders who are honest, capable and fair”.
Voters have “the duty and right” di “discern and elect candidates based on criteria of competency, conscience and programme of government ”, the letter says calling the faithful to judge the candidates in themes such as the family, education, environment, fighting drug abuse and gambling and poverty, promotion of justice and peace. The Bishops welcome the opening of the vote to citizens overseas and say they are sure that vigilance and control by ordinary citizens will be the best, “guarantee for an election which is honest, orderly and peaceful ”.
One sensitive topic addressed by the letter is a call to fight corruption: in the past few months the local media have often referred to danger of mass fraud for the elections. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 3/5/2004 lines 55 words 553)