The warning was contained in a pastoral letter broadcast live over dzBB Sunday. It called on all Catholic faithful nationwide to prevent a repeat of controversies that marked the conduct of the 2004 general elections.
The pastoral letter was yet to be read in churches all over the country. Fr. Paul Cunanan, a senior priest at San Pedro Cathedral, Davao City's main Catholic Church, said it might be read next Sunday.
Cunanan told MindaNews the people should listen to the bishops as they are "moral guardians". But he asked media to help the priests explain the pastoral letter to the public, adding many mass goers tend to become impatient whenever pastoral letters would be read during masses.
He said the pastoral letters could be informative, formative and also transformative to help the people make sound decisions.
Tracing the country’s current problems to unresolved questions surrounding the conduct of the 2004 elections, the CBCP urged Church organizations to work for credible and violence-free polls.
The CBCP called for “every parish organization and institution, and the BEC [Basic Ecclesial Communities] most especially, be mobilized to the utmost to do what it can do” and to “form linkages with one another and with other right-minded civic and religious associations working to help clean the dirt from our easily corrupted electoral process.”
In rural areas, the BEC, known in Mindanao as GKK [Gagmayng Kristohanong Katilingban], are basic Catholic prayer groups. Many of these groups have worked with civic organizations on various issues, like the campaign for a logging moratorium in Bukidnon in the late 80s.
"It has become easier to succumb to apathy and hopelessness about our country and its political life. But as followers of the crucified and risen Lord we are called never to lose the hope that creates energy and the love that creates responsibility," the statement said.
The statement added the CBCP is aware that the unresolved question on President Arroyo’s legitimacy has prevented the country from realizing its economic potential.
Arroyo was accused to have cheated in the 2004 elections, especially in Mindanao were elections results were allegedly rigged.
The bishops called for unity among the people to organize more effectively than in the past for credible and violence-free elections.
But CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the move should not be interpreted as meddling in partisan politics. He clarified its intention is “merely to apply the values of the Gospel to our electoral process".
The pastoral letter came out on the last day of the CBCP's three-day 94th plenary assembly at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.
In preparation for the plenary, the bishops attended a seminar with the theme: "Collaboration of Priests, Religious and Lay in Addressing Crises in Governance".
In 1991, the church formed the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in preparation for the 1992 presidential elections.
With its network of volunteers in parishes nationwide, the PPCRV performed poll watching and voters education activities to help ensure a smooth electoral process.