Saturday, March 16, 2013

Team Buhay? Really?

Should we voters choose our national leaders on the basis of one solitary issue? That appears to be the stand of the Catholic Church, at least those members who agree with the diocese of Bacolod.

The diocese of Bacolod made headlines last month when it erected a tarpaulin calling for the faithful to vote for "Team Buhay", which was composed of those lawmakers who voted against the reproductive health (RH) bill, and to reject "Team Patay", which was composed of those who voted for the RH bill. The tarpaulin has since gone viral, with churches in various parts of the country also putting up their own similar tarps.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has called on the Bacolod diocese to take down the tarp, since, according to the Comelec, it violates the rules on campaign materials. The lawyers for the diocese have responded that the tarp is simply a form of expression, which is covered by freedom of expression, and that the church is private property, and not subject to Comelec rules. The issue has since been taken up by the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments regarding the matter.

The diocese has the right to express its views, but I disagree with the manner by which it is expressing it. Calling one side "Team Buhay" and the other "Team Patay" is a tunnel-vision manner of campaigning, since it ignores all other details regarding the candidates. As it is, the diocese, and those churches which have taken up its tarp battlecry are asking the faithful to vote for:
  •   JV Ejercito - Ejercito, who has since eschewed his last name and taken the Estrada name, is the son of former President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada. Does this mean that the diocese is asking us to vote for someone who may have been complicit in his father's doings?
  • Antonio Trillanes IV and Gringo Honasan - the two Senators have been involved in various coups over the years, both bloody (Honasan) and stupid (Trillanes). Does this mean that the diocese is asking us to vote for people who have attempted to violently remove a democratic government?
  • Cynthia Villar - Villar is the wife of outgoing Senator Manny Villar. Does this mean that the diocese supports the proliferation of political dynasties?
  • Mitos Magsaysay - Magsaysay is the close ally of former President Gloria Arroyo.Does this mean that the diocese supports the possible crimes that the Arroyo government committed?
This is the problem that "Team Buhay" presents, that it boils down the election campaign to just one issue, when voters have to be aware of the complete context of the candidates, and not just their stand on one issue. The tarp creates a simplistic argument, and does nothing to elevate the campaign.

The other issue I have with the "Team Buhay" tarp is that it smacks of name-calling, which is unbecoming of the Church, which is supposed to spread moral values. The tarp sends the wrong message to the faithful, as it may mean that insults are okay as long as they are done in the defense of moral values.

The tarp issue, like the manner by which the Philippine Catholic leaders fought against the RH bill, may have negative repercussions on the Catholic Church. The Church needs to regain the moral high ground, in order to strengthen the faithful, and not engage in the traditional politics style of campaigning. Otherwise, it may see another humiliating defeat, as when the RH Bill was passed in Congress despite the rigorous campaign by the Church against it.

One cannot deny that the RH bill issue has been divisive for our nation. While the Church, in particular the diocese of Bacolod, has the right to continue to defend its beliefs, it should do so by taking the moral high ground. It should call on the faithful to choose wisely, to vote intelligently, and not stoop to name-calling.

The Catholic Vote Team Patay Vs Team Buhay
Image from Magnus Today

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