My dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan:
When our public officials assume their positions of authority in government after getting elected, we shall address them as Honorable. The President of our Republic will be addressed as Your Excellency as a sign of the esteem and respect that we hold for the Head of State. As it is our Christian duty to respect those in authority, so it is a duty too for our government officials to act and talk and live honorably and for the President of the Republic to excel in professionalism and service, to be excellent in character and competence, to be excellent role models for the youth and to be the prime example for all public servants.
The great need of our time is leadership with vision. We need inspired and inspiring leaders who can rally the nation beyond the horizon of our dreams. While intelligence and competence are essential for national leaders, we need to be reminded of our mistakes in the past when we elected intelligent leaders who later on became thieves of government coffers, murderers of the opposition and billionaires from public funds.
More than intelligence, we need God fearing leaders who are also bravely and stubbornly loyal to the flag and to the people.
The Ten Commandments
We have spoken in the past and we echo what we have already proclaimed. If you are discerning for whom to vote, use the age old standards set by our Judeo Christian tradition—the Ten Commandments, in assessing the worthiness of the candidates for local and even more for national positions.
In the light of the Ten Commandments, let us discern how to vote.
1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me. Do not vote for an atheist or for someone who makes fun of the name of God. A Catholic cannot support a candidate who vows to wipe out religion from public life.
While we expect every public official to give life to the constitutional posture of "benevolent neutrality" in respect to the attitude of the State towards religion, the Catholic voter cannot and should not lend his support to any candidate whose ideology binds him or her to make of the Philippines a secular state that has no tolerance for religion in its public life. Ang tunay na makabayan ay makaDiyos.
A Catholic is not closed to the candidacy of a non-Catholic. In fact, there are worthy candidates from other Christian communities and other religions. Their qualifications and aspirations must be given serious heed by our Catholic voters, their truly helpful plans and visions must be supported.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Words are sacred. From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. When we utter words of hatred, reproach or defiance against God, we sin. The prohibition of using disrespectful language and cuss words extends to the Church of the Lord, the saints and sacred things.
Do not vote for candidates who have a history of violating oaths they have made. Our Catechism states clearly “A person commits perjury when he makes a promise under oath with no intention of keeping it, or when after promising on oath he does not keep it. Perjury is a grave lack of respect for the Lord of all speech. Pledging oneself by oath to commit an evil deed is contrary to the holiness of the divine name.”
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day. In spite of economic constraints, public authorities should ensure citizens a time intended for rest and divine worship.
If the candidate professes the Catholic faith, how does this candidate look at Sunday worship, Sunday rest especially for the poor, Sunday time with the family? Does the candidate show, through his life, belief in the grace of God at work among his people or has he fallen to the pursuit of some sort of “ideology of performance” introducing a harsh, impersonal and self -centered utilitarian attitude even for his subordinates? Has this candidate contributed to the culture of heightened anxiety, hyper-activism, and success-orientation without God in public policies?
4. Honor your father and your mother. How does the candidate show filial piety to elders? How does the candidate safeguard family life, the protection of children and the elderly and frail family members? This commandment extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it. Has this candidate been loyal to the country and to the citizenry? A candidate who fails in this commandment can harm the basic unit of our society—the family.
Related to this commandment is the reality of political dynasties in the Philippines. I reiterate what I have advised our Catholic faithful in the past: Do not vote for family members running for the same positions as family members before them to perpetrate the family’s hold on public office. Christian voters should prudently choose others who may have equal if not superior abilities and competencies for the position. There is no monopoly on ability for government, and truly no one in government is indispensable.
5. You shall not kill. A Catholic voter commits a grave sin in voting for candidates who oppose the Lord’s teachings on the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death. Please demand that the candidates state in clear terms their position on issues such as abortion, the return of the death penalty, euthanasia and extra judicial killings.
Included in sins against the fifth commandment are “mutilation, physical and mental torture, undue psychological pressures”. Has this candidate been involved in these acts which are ways of authoritarian regimes?
What has the candidate done to stop vices that destroy life such as drug abuse, alcoholism and on a lesser degree smoking?
What has the candidate done about sins against human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, prostitution? Even degrading working conditions can seriously threaten the quality of human life when men and women are treated as mere tools for profit rather than as free and responsible persons (GS 27). Has the candidate done something beyond promises to protect the dignity of the poor?
6. You shall not commit adultery. We must liberate our nation from two tyrannies about sexual morality—the tyranny of puritanical attitudes with misguided taboos and the tyranny of indecency.
The Church’s position on marriage and human sexuality is positive and uplifting. Breaking through both tyrannies, the Christian view of sexuality and marriage presents the dignity and authentic freedom of single and married life that is truly fulfilling, desirable, and fruitful.
How does this candidate view marriage and sexuality? How does this candidate live the marriage commitment? What is his position on divorce? Does he mock the institution of marriage?
The population problem is not primarily one of numbers, but of the care of persons, and the improvement of the quality of human life. This involves not only food, clothing and shelter, but spiritual endowments such as conscience and freedom and moral integrity. Would it not be the height of folly to strive for greater material prosperity at the cost of violence done to personal conscience, freedom in decision making, and the exercise of moral integrity? The key to the problem is not in external means of control through mechanical and chemical contraceptives, but rather in the development and maturation of inner mastery of one’s sexual behavior-- in the chastity and self-control demanded by the stable commitment of marriage.
How does the candidate look at this teaching?
7. You shall not steal. Is the candidate committed to the common good? Has this candidate stolen public money and remains obstinate and stubborn in making the required restitution of stolen goods?
There are plenty of thieves from above. Has the candidate favored exorbitant interest rates being charged by banks and insurance firms?
When rich landowners and multi-national corporations take advantage of the small farmer or businessman, what did the candidate do? What has he done for land reform?
Was the candidate charged for government graft and bribery and violation of business contracts? Has he supported big business’ refusal to pay just wages, engaged in tax evasion schemes and falsification of documents? What is the candidate’s position with regard to the promotion of government sanctioned gambling and illegal gambling operations?
Was the candidate ever involved in these?
Finally, the dominion over the environment and the resources of Mother Earth cannot be separated from our obligations for the generations to come. Neglect of the environment is robbing future generations of a clean and beautiful land. Does the candidate have a program of care for the environment?
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Lying is the intentional misrepresentation of the truth by word, gesture, or even silence. To deliberately intend to mislead other persons who have the right to know the truth can do real violence to them. For it denies them the knowledge they need to make their judgments and decisions (CFC, 1233).
The campaign period is a good time to see the different forms of lying. There is pasiklab, exaggerating one’s qualities or actions to gain favor with others (cf. CCC 2481).
Other lies are caused palusot, or for saving face to preserve one’s supposed good image before others, or avoiding possible recriminations.
Sometimes it is just a case of sabi-sabi or bola.
But other lies can be of a more serious nature. Lies told from malice, to harm others; lies of propaganda by candidates which intentionally deceive and lead others into error; lies of hypocrisy or of half-truths by which the truth is twisted or slanted to seem to say something which is not so.
Contrived flattery of others can be lying when it is obviously exaggerated in order to gain undue favor of voters, or win favor with another in personal relations or in politics (cf. CCC 2480).
Even silence pa-simple can be a lie when it is the coward’s “refuge” to avoid trouble or to support something known to be wrong.
Beware of liars. Lying is a devil with many faces. Be wise. Watch out. Do not vote for liars.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. Does the candidate treat women with respect? In providing sex education for children, does the candidate promote healthy interpersonal relationships and proper bodily expressions? Does the candidate promote an adulterous lifestyle by his life example? Does the candidate support or promote the ideology of a homosexual lifestyle without respect for modesty and right conduct?
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. What has he done for the poor? Has his programs for the poor led to the liberation of the poor from the shackles of poverty or has this candidate promoted a culture of patronage so that the poor may be perennially dependent and hence easier to manipulate? Stealing begins in the heart. Do we see signs of unjust craving for victory in elections, envy at the success of others similar to Cain’s pattern of “envy-hatred-murder”? A candidate who has thus far spent his time demolishing the reputation and tarnishing the good name of fellow candidates must be suspect. He may have nothing positive to offer, and he debases the level of political discourse by calling attention to the shortcomings of his rivals and competitors, rather than on programs.
Be careful in choosing leaders. I say it again—be careful. Do not choose depending on who is topping or trailing in the surveys. You are called to be authentic Catholic voters who decide from prayer and conscience. You are called to take courage and make moral decisions. Your vote can make heaven come down and make our country beautiful and good as God desires it.
Be free from the tyranny and pressure of trends and herds. Do it right! Choose what is right according to the Ten Commandments. Lord guide us with your grace. Amen.
Please pray for me. Daily I pray for you and for this nation, God’s gift to us.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, March 31, 2016
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan