ON OCT. 22, 2021, a picture of then presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos being anointed by a well-known priest in Cebu went viral on social media.

Msgr. Roberto Alesna, parish priest of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Sta. Teresa de Avila Parish in Talisay City, received heavy criticism for the act from people he knew and didn’t know, in public comments and in private messages.

To them, he had breached the constitutional provision on the inviolability of the separation of the Church and State, and that by anointing Marcos he was endorsing him for the presidency.

The picture, posted on a digital news page, simply said Marcos led the inauguration of his campaign headquarters in Barangay Luz, Cebu City on that day. The priest was unnamed, but he was captured anointing Marcos.

Alesna told SunStar Cebu on Feb. 19, 2022 in a casual talk during a birthday party about the photo and how the caption left out what he said to Marcos.

He asked SunStar Cebu to publish the photo with the right context if Marcos wins the presidency. On May 9, 2022, Marcos did.

“This is what I told Bongbong when I was anointing him with the Holy Oil: If by the grace of God you’d be given the opportunity to become the next President of the Philippines, remember that by this anointing, you are anointed to serve our beloved country, the Philippines and the entire Filipino people and not just your family, relatives and friends.”

Alesna said after he had blessed the headquarters, Marcos asked for his blessing. He said he could not deny Marcos this. He said he knew the Marcos history and carefully chose his words.