With less than a year before the 2022 elections, various faith-based organizations banded together to work for a “clean, accurate, responsible and transparent” polls.

“Halalang Marangal 2022” is a coalition of more than 20 church and civic groups that are committed to ensure “righteous elections.”

Among its main activities include a campaign for voters’ registration and education, and poll monitoring.

Caritas Philippines Head Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo encouraged the faithful to join the movement to achieve its cause.

“We need to share the burden of managing and administering the electoral exercise with the Commission on Elections,” Bagaforo said.

“We need to help fill gaps in the entire process, help explain how automated systems work and reinforce trust and confidence now at an all-time low in elections,” he said.

The electoral process, according to him, consists of several stages that citizens should understand and involve themselves in with “dynamism and courage.”

He asked the laity to familiarize themselves with the process and know how each stage in the voting chain contributes to transparent and honest elections.

“We have this special responsibility in times of serious moral, economic, health, food security, livelihood and leadership crises,” Bagaforo said.

“Apathy and indifference are unforgivable and jeopardize our democracy and help perpetuate Godless values,” he said.

Besides Caritas, the coalition is composed of the bishops’ Commissions on Indigenous Peoples and Commission on Youth; the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP); Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas; and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP).

Other coalition members are the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP); De La Salle Brothers Philippines; Network for Justice and Compassion (NetJC); People Empowerment via Transformative Electoral Reforms (PETER); Philippine Misereor Partnership (PMPI); Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB); Bawat Isa Mahalaga (B1M); The Faith Initiative; and Radio Veritas846.

The national Caritas is hoping that the coming together of various groups will lead to a continuing communal discernment and action.

“We are doing this for the sake of our country and to protect the sacredness of our votes,” said Fr. Antonio Labiao, its executive secretary.

“I hope that we elect leaders whom we can rely on for real peace, justice and for life in this country,” he said.

Bishop: ‘Our choice reflects our values’

At the same time, Bagaforo, also the bishop of Kidapawan, called on voters to vote responsibly, saying that the votes people cast are a mirror of them.

“Our choice reflects our values,” Bagaforo said. “It is an expression and affirmation of our human dignity, a foundational principle of Catholic social teaching.”

According to him, voting is God’s gift to people “and how we use this is our gift to our country.”

“It is a fulfilment of one’s responsibility to participate in and influence the social, political affairs of our nation,” he said.

The bishop made the statement during the virtual launching of Halalang Marangal 2022 Coalition on Tuesday.

With the many issues and challenges besetting the country, he said that Filipinos deserve “leaders with servant hearts.”

But to be a true and working servant leader, he said, requires “competence, experience, compassion, kindness, passion and perseverance.”

“A functioning leader provides direction and inspires God’s family to work tirelessly to improve the condition of all Filipinos with preferential attention to the marginalized and excluded,” Bagaforo said.

‘Ensure 2022 polls will push through’

For his part, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, vice president of the bishops’ conference, said the public must make sure that the health crisis will not be used by certain sectors to thwart the elections.

“We need to help guarantee that we’re going to have an election and all,” David said during a recent virtual conference to mark this year’s National Laity Week in the diocese.

“We must make sure that it will push through and that the pandemic won’t be used to prevent the elections. We have to avoid that,” he said.

The incoming president of the episcopal conference also said that after ensuring the conduct of elections, it is necessary to safeguard the integrity of ballots.

“We have to make sure that these elections will be clean, honest, accurate, meaningful, and peaceful,” David said.

He stressed that the public should not avoid political activities and political issues, such as the elections, as it is an integral part of being responsible citizens.

“It is wrong to avoid political issues because it is part of our lives as citizens, to have that concern for our country,” the prelate added.

Some lawmakers earlier noted the possibility that the May 9 polls may not push through if the pandemic is not resolved. CBCP News

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