Philippines: Catholic Groups Endorse Opposition Pro-life Candidates
By Joe Torres and Christine Ferranco
The Philippine’s largest Catholic charismatic movement and other pro-life groups have endorsed candidates identified with the country’s political opposition for the May 9 presidential and vice presidential race.
On May 1, the influential El Shaddai Charismatic Renewal Movement distributed “sample ballots” that carry the names of Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who are running for president and vice president, respectively.
The group, which claims a following of 3 to 8 million Filipinos, earlier called on its members not to vote for presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, who has come under fire for joking about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary.
Binay, meanwhile, has figured in several money-laundering investigations of alleged ghost accounts in a series of corruption charges, while support for Marcos could pave the return to power of the Marcos family, who ruled the country in a dictatorial grip for two decades until 1986.
El Shaddai leader Mariano “Mike” Zuniega Velarde, better known as Brother Mike Velarde, said he will make the official announcement of candidates that his group will support on May 3, when the result of an informal survey of members comes out.
“On Tuesday, I will make it known to you,” said Velarde. “I have distributed something like a survey form. We will know the sentiments of everyone,” added the charismatic leader.
Velarde said candidates for president, vice president, and senators were invited to address an overnight prayer vigil and celebration over the weekend, but only Binay, Sen. Grace Poe, and administration candidate Manuel Roxas attended the event.
Among the vice presidential candidates only Marcos and Sen. Francis Escudero attended.
“We did not forget them. We invited them here. But it seems they forgot us. So if they forgot us, we can also forget them,” said Velarde.
‘One step away from presidency’
Velarde allowed candidates who were present at the overnight vigil to speak before the crowd after the celebration of the Eucharist.
Poe, who comes second in most poll surveys among presidential candidates vowed a “fair government” if ever elected. “Like what God wants us to do, I will do my best to fight poverty,” she said.
“As a mother, I will look into the welfare of the family …, a family with enough income, a family that can provide education to the children, a family with enough food on the table,” Poe said.
Binay promised a leadership that “recognizes, respects, and follows the Word of God …, a leadership the respects women, a leadership that shows good example to children.”
Roxas, who arrived late during the celebration, reminded the people of their responsibility during the coming elections. “Shall we continue with a path that has already brought us this far, or are we going to turn around?” said Roxas.
“May the Lord guide us in our decision,” he added.
Marcos, meanwhile, called for unity for the country to “experience change, development, and a good life.” He called on Filipinos to join him to face a “beautiful future that we can only achieve through unity.”
Members of the charismatic group El Shaddai raise posters with the face of the group’s leader Mariano “Mike” Velarde during the overnight prayer vigil. (Photo by Robert Gines)
Anti-death penalty, anti-abortion
Other Catholic “pro-life” groups said they will be supporting the candidacy of Binay and Marcos because of the candidates’ anti-death penalty and anti-abortion stance.
Congressman Lito Atienza, representative of the Catholic conservative Buhay (Life) Party in Congress, said his group has banded with the Pro-Life Philippines Foundation, which claims some 2.5 million members, to support Binay and Marcos.
Atienza expressed fear that if Poe, who used to live in the United States, is elected president, “she will promote abortion and the use of contraceptives that pro-life groups oppose.”
“Only Binay has a clear-cut position on preserving the sanctity of life. He values life,” said Atienza.
“We followed [Marcos’] political career and found that he is pro-life. All his legislations are geared at protecting and preserving life,” said Eric Manalang, president of Pro-Life Philippines Foundation.
Another conservative Catholic group, the Servant Communities, also announced its endorsement of Binay and his running mate Sen. Gregorio Honasan, a former military colonel.
Velarde said whoever El Shaddai and the other Catholic groups will support in the coming elections will win. “Remember this, whoever it is we agree to support will win,” he said.