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MANILA, Philippines – Two months after he became a cardinal, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle found himself holding a ballot before Michelangelo's painting of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.
Tagle then recited the prescribed prayer for casting ballots during the conclave, the 700-year-old ritual for electing the leader of the Catholic Church.
"I call Christ the Lord, my judge, to witness that I am voting for the one whom, in the Lord, I think should be elected," Tagle said, like 114 other cardinal-electors in the conclave that elected Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis.
Tagle recounted this on Thursday, April 16, as he stressed the need to vote according to one's conscience.
It was the launch of "One Good Vote," a voters' education campaign of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) for the May 2016 elections. (WATCH: #TalkThursday: PPCRV in the 2013 elections)
In his 15-minute speech, Tagle said his experience during the conclave showed him the sanctity of the ballot.
"I saw that this is what sanctity means. And we do this in front of our almighty God," Tagle said in Filipino.
Heaven or hell for Philippines
He added in jest: "How long will our elections be if we will also do this? That before we cast our votes, we will have a formula prayer that says, 'I'm ready to face our judge on the last day,' and you will use a formulation based on your own religion."
Launched more than a year before the May 2016 elections, "One Good Vote" aims, among other things, to fight bribery and educate the poorest members of society.
"I'm telling you this story because I experienced that it is possible. It is possible…a vote based on one's conscience and for the common good," the cardinal said.
During his speech, Tagle also appealed to politicians not to exploit vulnerable Filipinos.
He also requested the media to uphold the truth and fight media corruption especially during the election season. He cited stories of media corruption from the book, News for Sale by Rappler investigative desk head Chay Hofileña.
The head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, also delivered a video message for the launch of "One Good Vote."
Villegas said: "Your vote can bring heaven to the Philippines. Your vote can also bring hell to the Philippines. Your vote, with God, becomes God, and if your vote is good, you bring heaven here on earth." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.