By Andrew Lim
Joe Tale, a lawyer affiliated with the movement, says, “ The Catholic Vote is not a political party. It will scan the horizon among all the parties and support candidates who carry Catholic values in their word and action, in their public as well as private life, regardless of political party, and yes, if called for, regardless of religion.”
Bishop Gabriel Reyes clarifies: “Catholics should not be single -issue voters and should consider a candidate's competence and incorruptibility.” He adds: “One could be anti-RH but he could also be a thief. It will be up to the voters to weigh a candidate's track record and decide.”
Recently, the Bacolod diocese came out with tarpaulins advocating specific names to vote, as well as who not to vote.
While there is nothing illegal with the foregoing, this author believes this will work negatively against the cause of Philippine democracy, will be problematic for most voters to apply, and do more harm than good.
Let's set aside the debate on whether the Catholic vote exists in the first place or not. Dicky Boncan, the spokesperson of the group readily admits it does not exist at the national level, but argues that “the Church can make or break an election at the local level. “ Proceeding from that presumption, I submit five reasons why Catholic Vote Phils will be problematic and ultimately harmful to democracy:
A. Catholic Vote Phils cannot be operationalized without becoming a single-issue voter.
Despite the nuanced pronouncements of its leaders, it will be impossible to “vote as a Catholic” without endorsing a specific candidate, or supporting/not supporting a candidate based solely on his vote on the RH bill, to the exclusion of other important issues like mining, taxes, gun control, etc.
Compounding this problem is the fact that Philippine politics is not really issue-based, but personality-based. Most candidates resort to platitudes.
Joe Tale again: “In the recent US elections, there was an organized Catholic Vote that came out with their own political ads and endorsed the Romney-Ryan tandem for President and Vice-President. The Romney-Ryan team lost, but at least in the US, the Catholics have served notice that they will be active participants in the electoral process.”
Does Mr Tale indicate that had Filipino Catholics been allowed to vote in the last US presidential elections, they should have chosen the Republican ticket? Then that means they would have also endorsed the entire Republican platform, which has been criticized for its inconsistency with the pro-life ideals by being pro-automatic assault rifles ownership, its regressive tax policies, its indifference to minorities, women and the gay communities.
B. Complicated decision making cannot be appreciated by the average voter.
The Catholic faith is notorious for its love of elaborate hierarchies, and this is no exception. In my research for this piece, I encountered the notion of “a hierarchy of truths”. Mentioned in the Unitatis Redintegratio of the Second Vatican Council, it says that “ when comparing doctrines with one another, they should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a “hierarchy" of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith. “
Ratzinger, still a Cardinal then, further enumerates the three levels of truths: 1. those that are divinely revealed; 2. those which are definitively proposed and 3. those which belong to the authentic ordinary Magisterium.
Is a candidate's vote on the RH bill the primary and only criteria for electing someone, to the exclusion of every issue?
Now tell me- except for Catholic apologists like Dicky Boncan or members of Defensores Fidei, how can you expect this to be understood by the average Catholic voter? Will they hand out laminated guides with decision flowcharts?
C. Catholic Vote Phils will discriminate against non-Catholic candidates.
Even without meaning to do so, following Catholic Vote Phils will inevitably result in discrimination against non-Catholic candidates. Why? Because invariably, Catholic voters will not understand or consider other religious viewpoints. The rationale of Catholic Vote Phils originates from tenets of Roman Catholicism, and it is natural that there will be divergence in beliefs with other faiths. A difference in beliefs will lead to differences in political agendas.
If Catholic Vote Phils existed years ago and managed to gain popular support, then we would not have seen the likes of FVR, Leticia Shahani, Mike Tamano, Santanina Rasul, Juan Flavier, etc in government.
D. Catholic Vote Phils will put its voters in the awkward position of supporting candidates with unsavory political histories, just because they voted no to RH and appear to support their agenda.
E. Catholic Vote Phils may create a moral hazard, by appearing to wash away the past misdeeds of its supported candidates.
Its seal of approval will look like an endorsement of such past reprehensive behavior, and encourage future candidates to engage in further chronic corruption or recklessness, since all they need is to take a stand that the Catholic Vote Phils supports.
Nothing demonstrates this better than the CBCP's praise heaped upon the 104 congressmen who voted no to the RH bill on second reading last December 2012. Included among the 104 are the following political personalities who have been associated with the most corrupt and repressive past regimes:
a. Imelda Marcos – Leyte
b. Mikee Arroyo - party list
c. JV Ejercito- San Juan
d. Dato Arroyo- Camarines Sur
When the number of anti-RH congressmen dwindled to 79 for the third reading, the list was passed around social media amongst would-be Catholic voters for their reference in the 2013 elections.
Based on the above, it is argued that it is best for the Filipino voter to disregard Catholic Vote Philippines.
- “The Catholic Vote”, Joe Tale, Catholic Vote Phils. Website. Originally published in Phil Star Opinion section.
- “Bishop Warns Roxas Church will make him pay in 2016” Phil Daily Inquirer, Dec 19, 2012.
- “RH and Elections: Pols knew there's no Catholic vote”, online conversation by author with Dicky Boncan in comments section, Rappler, Dec 29, 2012.
- “Catholic Voting and the Order of Truths”, Joe Heschmeyer, Shameless Popery blog on Catholic defense blogspot.com Sept 27, 2012
- “Theologian says one-issue voting is foreign to Catholic tradition”, by Catholic News Service, Oct 25, 2004.
- “How Our Congressmen and Senators Voted for the RH bill” Catholic Vote Phils website.
- “Solon bares small wrinkle on prolife stand” Inquirer Online News Nov 7, 2012.