Primer on "One Godly Vote"
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, MPA
What is ‘’One Godly Vote’’?
It is an election campaign that aims to educate voters and evangelize our political system. The education of voters will focus on analyzing issues that adversely affect them. The stand of politicians and their support for policies addressing such issues will be discussed as well. Experts in different fields known for their objectivity and love for the poor and the country will be asked to analyze and explain matters of relevance to the people.
The evangelization part will emphasize morality and ethics in governance. Legal and secular principles alone are not sufficient in addressing our country’s ills. As it now stands, there is a great deal of leaving morality and ethics out of the public sphere. This campaign seeks to reclaim these principles and ultimately make them as one of the standards by which we measure the candidates.
Catholic voters should use the framework of Catholic social teaching to examine candidates' positions on issues affecting human life and dignity as well as issues of justice and peace, and they should consider candidates' integrity, philosophy, and performance. It is important for all citizens "to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest" (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 33).
Why ‘’One Godly Vote’’?
We wish to emphasize that election is a serious matter. It is not to be taken lightly. Our future as a people and nation is placed in the hands of elected officials. Hence, we want to inform Filipino voters that their choice should seriously consider the best candidates in the field. They should not compromise their votes. They should shun money, they should not be cowed by intimidation, they should not be swayed by empty, shallow and outrageous promises, and they need to hold on to the sacredness of their vote as if their choice is God’s choice to lead us to our future.
‘’Vox populi, vox Dei” (The voice of the people is the voice of God) is often used to justify the demand for obedience and respect for our elected leaders notwithstanding these leaders’ character and trait. We aim to educate voters through a process of discussion and discernment that come elections, their choice should be the ‘’divine voice’’ shouting out the names of the worthiest candidates who’ll be our trusted leaders for the years to come.
Why involve God in a very secular exercise such as Election?
God cannot be dissociated from our human history. God is present in each and every human activity. He made sure of this through the incarnation of His Son, Jesus. “And God became man and made His dwelling among us’’ (Jn. 1:14). Even the most secular of our activities cannot be detached from God. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them’’ (Mt. 18:20).
In our attempt to free ourselves from God, we tend to negate His presence. It is about time that the Church takes pains in making God present in every facet of our life specially since we are in the midst of celebrating the 500 years of Christianity in our country. Bringing God in politics is simply a means ‘’to evangelize politics’’. In the words of the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, “Politics without Christ is the scourge of our nation’’.
With this campaign/program, is the church meddling in politics?
Every Filipino has a right to participate in societal affairs including politics. The only thing that bars clerics from such participation is the prohibition in Canon Law banning them to run for political office or from accepting government positions since they entail sharing in the exercise of civil power (Can. 285 §3). The Constitution doesn’t even have such prohibition. In fact, it guarantees each citizen’s right to be heard, to participate and to pursue the common good.
Jurgen Habermas, one of the most influential thinkers of the 21st century and a known atheist said, ‘’Religion has a lot to contribute and to offer in the public sphere’’. The church’s contribution in this matter is not to throw support to a particular candidate or political party but to discuss, analyze and articulate in a rational and objective manner matters of public concern and common interests.
On a more practical note, when politicians seek the support and advice of clerics, pundits don’t call it ‘’political meddling’’. But, when clerics articulate their opinion on public issues, they are quick to say that the church is politicking. There is a great deal of double standard in this regard and it is wrong.
Hence, it is safe to say that constitutionally, legally, canonically, and ethically, it is every citizen’s right to articulate his/her opinion in the pursuit of the common good by campaigning for good governance.
What issues will be the focus of this campaign/program? Will it zero-in on morality issues?
Myriad of issues will be tackled in this campaign. From economic to foreign policies, human rights, social services, health, education, and many others. We are not single-issue voters. A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support. Yet, if a candidate's position on a single issue promotes an intrinsically evil act, such as legalizing abortion, redefining marriage in a way that denies its essential meaning, a voter may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support.
In analyzing those issues, we wish to emphasize four principles that can provide a moral framework for making decisions in public life. These are the Dignity of the Human Person, Subsidiarity, Common Good and Solidarity.
Human dignity is respected and the common good is fostered only if human rights are protected and basic responsibilities are met. Every human being has a right to life, the fundamental right that makes all other rights possible, and a right to access those things required for human decency-food and shelter, education and employment, health care and housing, freedom of religion and family life. The right to exercise religious freedom publicly and privately by individuals and institutions along with freedom of conscience need to be constantly defended. In a fundamental way, the right to free expression of religious beliefs protects all other rights. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities-to one another, to our families, and to the larger society. Rights should be understood and exercised in a moral framework rooted in the dignity of the human person.
The principle of subsidiarity reminds us that larger institutions in society should not overwhelm or interfere with smaller or local institutions, yet larger institutions have essential responsibilities when the more local institutions cannot adequately protect human dignity, meet human needs, and advance the common good (Centesimus Annus, no. 48; Dignitatis Humanae, nos. 4-6). Every person and association has a right and a duty to participate actively in shaping society and to promote the well-being of all, especially the poor and the vulnerable.
In reference to solidarity, a special emphasis must be given to the candidate’s program for the poor. A basic moral test for any society is how it treats those who are most vulnerable.
With this foundation, voters are better able to evaluate policy positions, party platforms, and candidates' promises and actions in light of the Gospel and the moral and social teaching of the Church in order to help build a better future for the country.
Is this campaign or program merely for Catholic voters?
No, this campaign is for all. The fact that societal issues affect us all, everyone is welcome and invited to listen, discern and participate and hence, benefit from this program. Utilizing the Catholic Social Teachings as framework for analyzing issues should not alienate non-Catholics. If you study deeply those principles, you’ll understand that they are generally beneficial to all. Besides, this program or campaign is not a promotion of Catholic dogmas or doctrines but a means to achieve greater understanding of societal issues leading voters to make informed choices during the election.
How will this program guarantee ‘’objectivity’’ when Catholic Social Teachings are used as framework for analyzing issues?
Again, the four principles as framework for analyzing social issues are not promotional principles advancing the Catholic church. What they seek to achieve is the advancement and promotion of each person by influencing public policies that will uphold human dignity, human rights, common good, social justice and equality. More so, experts in different fields will be tasked to articulate their expert opinion on the issue at hand thereby assuring voters of an unbiased information regarding the matter.
How is this different from other election campaign / program?
We are not concerned about being different from other election campaign or program. Our motivation is to achieve a renewed kind of politics by focusing more on the following: moral principles than on the latest polls; the concern and needs of the weak than on benefits for the strong and powerful; and the pursuit of the common good than on the demands of narrow and selfish interests.
How will this campaign/program run?
Since the pandemic has adversely affected many of our normal activities, we shall be utilizing different media platforms to bring relevant information to voters. This information includes the candidates’ stand on issues and support for existing policies, the advantages and disadvantages of legislated laws, the effectiveness or inefficiency of government affairs and the qualities needed for a renewed kind of politics. Qualified analysts and experts will be on hand to provide the necessary and pertinent information to voters.
If the situation so warrants, face to face discussion and analysis of issues may also be done by convening different church groups or organizations either as listeners or participants in said forum. A debate pitting candidates against each other will also be organized.
By launching this program, is the Church merely trying to reclaim or intensify its influence in society?
It’s a cliché to say this program is all part of the church’s prophetic function, but it is what it is. There is no sugarcoating that. To say therefore the Church only wishes to either reclaim or intensify its influence betrays that function. As prophet, the church is obligated to speak the truth no matter how painful it is. Her role is not self-promotion but the promotion of people she is tasked to serve. But the Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for human dignity, human rights, social justice and equality.
At present, faith may have been privatized, religion marginalized and the church’s contribution to societal life diminished, but these are not motivations for the church to stand up and perform her prophetic role in a society that has seemingly embraced the absence of the rule of law, disregard for basic human rights, dearth of morality and decency and a lack of rationality in the formulation and implementation of public policies.
The church is standing up precisely to establish a renewed kind of politics with political systems, political agents and actors promoting the good of the country and its people.