PARAÑAQUE CITY, Philippines - What should Catholics look for in senatorial candidates?
They should be against the reproductive health law, same-sex marriage, and divorce, according to the White Vote Movement led by the charismatic group El Shaddai.
On Saturday, April 13, the group endorsed the first batch of candidates who met these criteria. At the El Shaddai's fellowship venue in Amvel City, their leaders raised the hands of United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) bets JV Ejercito, Gregorio Honasan, and Mitos Magsaysay; and Team PNoy's Cynthia Villar, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Koko Pimentel -- all clad in white.
The second batch of favored candidates will be presented to the congregation next Saturday, April 20.
"Twelve leaders of the "Sangguniang Laico (Lay Solidarity Coalition) came up with the criteria we called the LASER test," said Ed Malay, a member of the group's discerning committee.
LASER, a set of standards originally announced by the Archodiocese of Lipa in Batangas, stands for lifestyle, action, supporters, election activities, and reputation.
"We don't want those supported by jueteng lords, electoral conduct, and reputation," Malay said. "But the number one factor, they voted against the reproductive health law," he said.
Mike Velarde, founder of charismatic group El Shaddai and spokesperson of the White Vote Movement, also stressed that Catholics should not support politicians who are in favor of same-sex marriage and divorce.
"Hindi dapat paghiwalayin ang pinagsama ng Diyos (Those joined by God should not be separated)," Velarde said. "Ang lalake at babae ay para sa isa't isa. Kung babae at babae, pompyang ang tawag 'dun. Kung parehong lalake naman, fishballs (A man is meant for a woman. If a woman marries another woman, that's called cymbals. If the relationship is between men, that's called fishballs)," he added.
In her speech, Villar thanked the movement. She stressed that she would never support the RH law and other proposed laws that are not consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
"I am against the reproductive health law. I am against divorce and same-sex marriage more than ever, to protect the sanctity of marriage and family," she said.
JV Ejercito, meanwhile, took pride that he studied in Xavier School and De La Salle University, both Catholic schools. "Kaya po sinasabi daw po nila na may takot ako sa Diyos (That's why they say I'm God-fearing)," he said.
Magsaysay said she was raised as Catholic, so it is her duty to serve based on the teachings of the Church.
"Hindi mo pwedeng paghiwalayin ang simbahan at ang pamahalaan sapagkat ako po ay ipinanganak na Katoliko (You can't separate government and church because I was born Catholic)," she said.
Pimentel had the same argument. "Ang posisyon ko, maka-Diyos, makabayan, makabuhay dahil iyan ang 'tinuro ng aking mga magulang (My position is to be pro-God, pro-country and pro-life because that's what my parents taught me)," he said.
Meanwhile, Honasan said he realized that God placed him in the position to promote the sanctity of family by opposing the repoductive health law.
The right to endorse
Members of the White Vote Movement lit candles to symbolize the unity of Catholics in the upcoming polls.
"When you combine all the colors, the result is white," Velarde said. "Kapag pinagsama-sama at nagkapantay-pantay, ang resulta ay pagkakaisa (If everyone would be united and equal, the result is unity)."
Meanwhile, in his homily, Bishop Teodoro Bacani criticized groups that are against the so-called Catholic vote.
"Kaming mga nasa altar, hindi kami puwedeng mag-endoso. Ibubulong na lang namin sa inyo (We, men of the altar, are not allowed to endorse. But we could whisper it to you," he said.
"Pero walang puwedeng magsabi ng, 'Hoy, kayo, bawal kayong mag-endoso!' (Karapatan po iyan ng responsableng Katoliko (No group should tell us, 'Hey, you cannot endorse!.' That's the right of every responsible Catholic)." - Rappler.com