Bishops slam front-runners for snubbing CBCP forum
By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—A church official yesterday denounced the four leading presidential candidates for ignoring a Church-sponsored public forum focusing on the problems of the marginalized.
They do not deserve the people’s vote, said Msgr. Pedro Quitorio.
Their absence indicated that they cannot answer the concerns of the poor, the farmers, the indigenous people and the fisherfolk, he said.
Only the so-called “cellar dwellers” in the survey showed up at the forum, and while none of them got a categorical endorsement, Quitorio said the voters could choose the country’s next president from among them.
Quitorio implied that the four candidates present—Richard Gordon, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, John Carlos de los Reyes and Nicanor Perlas—were not the ones being referred to when the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said in a January pastoral letter that voters should not be influenced in their choice by political advertisements and performance in the surveys.
No true gauge
The four have been faring badly in the surveys, but they themselves have assailed these polls by saying that they are not the true gauge of the people’s preference.
“The CBCP is asking that voters think about their choice and have communal discernment because we might choose a rollover of the past evil of our country. Maybe the one who could give us hope as Filipinos is in this group,” said Quitorio, the CBCP’s media director.
“Voters should look at the future of our country, their children, of the Filipinos. If we would consider this, then we would know who we should vote for. We would know that those who are not here should not be voted for,” he said.
The survey front-runner Sen. Benigno Aquino III, Gilbert Teodoro, Joseph Estrada and Sen. Jamby Madrigal did not commit to attending the forum, saying they were campaigning.
Sen. Manuel Villar had confirmed his attendance, but did not show up.
Quitorio believes the no-shows were afraid to face the poor, the farmers, the fisherfolk and the indigenous people because these candidates were carrying “baggage” that they are hard put to explain.
“I think they have apprehensions that they may not be able to answer, or may not be able to answer truthfully. For example, how would you answer the question about land reform if you yourself are in the vortex of the destruction of land reform? How will you answer housing [questions] if you are involved in the problem of housing? How will you answer the issue of corruption if you yourself are in the vortex of corruption?” he said.
Looking for endorsement
Noting how the absent candidates managed to find time to attend the forum of a charismatic sect, Quitorio said they were probably looking for endorsements there, which they knew they would not get in the Church forum.
“They go there for endorsement. Here, we talk about issues, we talk about the truth behind the issues. It is easy to go to endorsers because they are not questioned there, and are even given something,” he said.
Gordon also had harsh words for his absent rivals.
He said those who fail to attend public forums rob the people of the ability to choose their next leaders based on their mental faculties and powers of analysis.