WHILE a good number of Catholic bishops continue to be passive, others have become aggressive by openly supporting candidates in the May 13 polls. Recently, Bishop Antonio Tobias of Novaliches has come out in support of the Otso Diretso senatorial bets.He did this in a press conference together with Otso Diretso bets Samira Gutoc and Erin Tañada.
“Hindi po totoo ‘yung pagka Katoliko ka ay wala kang, dapat di ka involved...No, that’s wrong, very, very wrong! Ang Santo Papa na ang nagsabi sa isang general audience sa Roma...’You have to be involved so that you allow those who can govern to govern properly,’” said Tobias.
I don’t know if that stand was taken by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in these elections, but if it wasn’t, then we know why some bishops are acting up. The attack by President Rodrigo Duterte on bishops and priests, on the entire Roman Catholic Church itself and even on some of its doctrines have been unrelenting.
In Cebu, an ecumenical group held a forum with some Otso Diretso candidates. This only means that where the clergy is passive, some Christian groups are the ones picking up the aggressiveness. Interestingly, some pro-Duterte bishops and priests have gotten passive.
There is no such thing as a Catholic Church vote, of course. Being in the majority, Catholics are necessarily split because most of the candidates belonging to the various political parties in the country are Catholics. Duterte himself is still officially a Catholic although he has been critical of Catholicism. His administration can thus still gain the support of some Catholics.
There can be no solid Catholic vote. By that we mean a vote dictated by the Catholic clergy. And non-Catholic bets and critics of the Catholic Church should be thankful because that would mean us becoming like, say Iran, where one religion dictates how the country should be run.
But Catholics seem to have been pushed to make a stand in these elections by the administration itself. And the Catholic Church hierarchy may not be able to hold back some Catholics who have decided to be active in these elections. And it is not even only the Catholics themselves but also those belonging to other denominations.
But will this minor aggressiveness make a dent after the votes are counted? We don’t know. That aggressiveness should seep into the parishes where Catholic organizations are active. We are not seeing that, so that may not matter. So they need help from the other forces that have been silent, notably the progressives and the liberals.
The progressives and the liberals have been marginalized by the Duterte administration and need to recover their voice. They have actually started to recover. The Duterte administration has been on the defensive on the human rights and sovereignty issue and the federalism push by trapos led by former president Gloria Arroyo in the House of Representatives have been effectively neutralized.
But would they make a difference in the polls together with the Catholics? We hope so.