Principled Partisan Politics: Three Ways of Involvement
Pastoral Letter addressed To the People of God in theArchdiocese of Cagayan de Oro
ELECTIONS are a time for choice and decision-making. Voters are expected to follow their conscience inchoosing public officials that will serve the common good, and help in the development of theircommunity. On election day itself, every voter becomes “partisan”—in the sense that he or she takessides and chooses the candidates deemed most qualified for public office.And yet, to be partisan in Philippine politics does not necessarily mean to side with one partyonly – even as political parties are beginning to articulate their principles and party platforms.Personalities, with their qualifications, are still crucial in determining principles and platforms. Thus, aswe scrutinize the qualifications of various candidates, the Catholic bishops have encouraged Christiancitizens to engage in “principled partisan politics.”But how do we engage in principled partisan politics? Three modes come to mind. The first way,paradoxically, is to be non-partisan in favoring this or that candidate. On the other hand, it means to bepartisan or to take sides for the democratic process itself to prevail. This is the role of watchdog citizens’arms like the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the National Movement forFree Elections (NAMFREL). As in past elections, we encourage our parishioners, particularly the youthand religious lay organizations, to volunteer their services in these activities to ensure Clean, Honest,Accountable, Meaningful, and Peaceful (CHAMP) elections. Our archdiocesan social action team canhelp coordinate both PPCRV and NAMFREL activities at the local levels to ensure complementarity of roles. We also commend the initiative of the Xavier University High School alumni in organizingCrusaders for Honest, Orderly, and Peaceful Elections (HOPE) in the 62 polling precincts of Cagayan deOro City.During this period before election day, Voters’ Education will require much effort—not only inthe proper utilization of the PCOS machines, but more so in choosing worthwhile candidates. It is in thiscontext that voters can become Trans-partisan—i.e., in choosing the most qualified candidates acrosspolitical parties. In their Pastoral Statement of Jan. 2013, the Catholic bishops “commend and supportlay initiatives to form circles of discernment to choose worthy candidates . . . in order to bring values of God’s kingdom in the public discourse.” As in previous elections, I have recommended that voterschoose candidates with the five C’s – that they be men and women of Character, Conscience,Competence, Compassion, and Commitment. Other characteristics have been suggested: thatcandidates be maka-Diyos, maka-Tao, maka-Buhay, maka-Bayan, and maka-Kalikasan.