Catholics told to be ‘good shepherds’ in polls

Fr. Edgar Clar, assistant parish priest of neighboring Cantilan town, said in his homily that everyone is called to emulate Jesus Christ as a "good shepherd," especially in the May 14 elections when church members are asked to vote responsibly and to help ensure elections are fair, clean and peaceful.

"Do not just think of yourself only, take good care also of the rest of the flock," he told around 500 churchgoers.

Clar urged parishioners and leaders of small communities in the church or the Basic Ecclesiastic Communities, to vote according to conscience and to help in the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

On April 23, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issued guidelines or criteria on responsible voting. It urged voters to choose candidates who love and fear God; who are guided by a well-formed conscience sensitive to the choice of what is good; who live and serve consistently with moral principles.

It also said candidates must also be honest, non-violent and compassionate; must respect and protect the limited sources in nature and require others to do the same; ready to sacrifice personal, party or group interest for the sake of unity, peace and the integral development of the country and the people.

Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, archbishop of Manila, said in the past, enormous sufferings resulted from political ambitions, maneuvers and group adventurism resulting in the country's poor becoming even poorer.

The Church called on teachers, the armed forces, the youth and volunteer citizens who help the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ensure that votes are accurately counted and properly turned over to the provincial and national canvassers.

Clar said in his homily the foundation of Jesus being a good shepherd is based on his love and passion for his flock.

He said such could be shown in one's active participation in the activities that the church organized to prepare voters for the lections.

"We should possess this passion and love. We are all called to be good shepherds among others," he said.

The call came just as the PPCRV media coordinator in the province described parishioners' reactions to their voters’ education efforts as "indifferent."

Philip Vincent Montenegro, PPCRV Surigao Sur media coordinator, said only a maximum of 15 percent of regular churchgoers attend the group's political education campaign in preparation for the elections.

Political dynasties are a major issue in this year’s electoral process in the province with the Pimentels and Pichays among those criticized to be building dynasties.

Governor Vicente Pimentel is seeking reelection against a relatively unknown opponent while his brother Alexander, who is running unopposed, is sure of reelection as Tandag mayor.

Rep. Prospero Pichay is running for Senator while his younger brother Phillip is running for the congressional seat he is abandoning.

Montenegro said there appears to be indifference among the parishioners in the campaign.

The PPCRV provides updates and information on the national political and economic situation, the role of the Church in the elections, and the stand of the bishops on vote-buying.

Most of the parishioners they were able to interact with, he said, believe there has to be change in the society "but they don't think they can do something about it. They think it is too big for them," he said.

Montenegro said they might need more volunteers at the PPCRV "but the greater problem is that we are getting less audience.”

He said, no matter how lofty the struggle to effect change in the society through the elections, each member of the community has a stake to make it happen.

"There is a big task, yes, but an individual has its own power, too, to influence change.

Montenegro said PPCRV has a greater challenge now that the Commission on Elections did not accredit the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL).

He said despite the prospects of setbacks, they will pursue their poll watching task, although they cannot take over Namfrel's quick count.

The PPCRV, a national parish-based, non-partisan citizens' movement was formed in 1991 as a program of the Archdiocese of Manila to carry out a mandate to help form the civic conscience of the Filipino voters and campaign for an honest, meaningful and peaceful elections.