PALM Sunday, as usual, opened up the solemnity that is Holy Week.

A few days before that, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) recognized the usual problem when Holy Week runs into a political campaign period, like the one for May 2010.

CBCP spokesman Pedro Quitorio told candidates not to use the mass or other Holy Week activities as campaign venues.

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But can candidates, even if they profess to be Catholics, really go on a respite for a week in a campaign period that is very limited (only 45 days for local polls)?

Then again, it’s not that candidates have traditionally allowed themselves to be boxed-in by our election laws.

Most of them even start campaigning months or years before the official campaign period for an election starts.

There are candidates, therefore, who could not replace in their minds the political with the spiritual, and thus find ways to insert into the week’s activities indirect calls to, “vote for me.”

Campaign styles

Quitorio had in mind such an overt act as attending Holy Week masses and then shaking the hands of parishioners.

But candidates can very well be silent during a mass and make up for it by wearing a t-shirt with their names emblazoned at the back---and achieve the same purpose (“see, I am a devout Catholic, I hear mass, so vote for me.”)

On the other hand, the law does prevent candidates from campaigning on Maundy Thursday and Black Friday, the peak of Holy Week solemnity.

One Commission on Elections officials even asked candidates to turn off their campaign jingles on those days.

But in Cebu, candidates can buy sponsorship in the many Siete Palabras programs or Holy Week special shows on radio and TV and have their names mentioned repeatedly ad nauseam on Maundy Thursday and Black Friday.

Punishment

What we are saying is that if candidates don’t respect the laws made by human beings and whose penalty could be immediate and real, how will they respect edicts whose punishment can be received only in the after life?

To be fair, not all candidates are “garapal” but until Catholics learn to punish the thick-faced kind, here and now, by not voting for them in May, calls for them to respect the solemnity of the Holy Week would be empty.