AS THE Christian world enters the Lenten season, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma urged voters and politicians to contemplate the elections a few months away.
During Ash Wednesday yesterday, the 64-year-old prelate reminded voters to choose the right candidate and shun illegal election practices, such as vote-buying, among others.
Palma was reacting to calls from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for voters to avoid electing leaders who buy votes.
Palma told reporters that Lent, which started yesterday and ends on March 27, is an ideal time for voters to reflect on who will be worthy to lead the country.
He also urged voters to vote for candidates not based on their popularity, but on how they can help make the country prosper.
With the start of the campaign period for national candidates last Tuesday, Palma admitted that national candidates have approached him to ask for his blessing.
But Palma said he offered them prayers instead, not the endorsement they were seeking.
Palma said that like the CBCP, he urged voters to think carefully about their choice of candidates.
“Are they the people, that, if given the opportunity to become leaders, will truly embody the spirit of their voters and really journey with us towards development?” Palma said.
Palma also revealed plans to organize a “Lenten retreat” for aspiring candidates. He plans to coordinate with Fr. Carmelo Diola of the Dilaab Foundation in organizing the retreat.
As to vote-buying, Palma urged voters to shun the practice and to vote according to their conscience.
“Even before, we discourage vote-buying. We know how much money is spent to buy votes. So while we know that it has been there before, our protest against such practices continues,” he said.
In a statement, CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said candidates who bulldoze their way to public posts through vote-buying are “selfish, destructive and sinful.”
“We remind those who win positions by such fraudulent means have in fact no moral right to assume the offices they stole,” Villegas said.
Palma formally started Lenten Season yesterday with an Ash Wednesday mass in his residence.
In his homily, the prelate reminded churchgoers that Lent is not only about praying, abstaining from eating meat or fasting, but also about sacrifice for the sake of others.
He said this often done by providing alms to the poor.
“Pope Francis often said that he doesn’t believe in love without sacrifice. Even Jesus sacrifice himself because of his great love for us,” he added.