CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., D.D. has urged the electorate to let their conscience guide them in choosing “candidates of conscience” on Monday, May 9.
In a pastoral letter addressed to “the People of God in the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and all persons of good will” issued late afternoon Tuesday, the Jesuit prelate said that while the Church does not have any official candidate or support any political party, “as your pastors, we have the duty to remind voters to vote according to your conscience, and to make sure that your conscience is well formed and informed in accordance with the Gospel values that the Church proclaims.”
“We urge you to vote for candidates of conscience with a consistent pro-life ethic and reject candidates who promote the culture of death. The choice you make will determine whether we live in the light and progress as a nation or bring back the darkness that we have experienced and rejected in the past – an autocratic regime characterized by violence, human rights violations and corruption, and a reign of terror and greed,” he said.
Ledesma had earlier issued a pastoral letter in which he enumerated the criteria for choosing candidates for public office, which he summarized as the Five C’s — Conscience, Competence, Compassion, Companionship, and Commitment.
“Conscience, to my mind, is the first and most important criterion. The candidate must be a person of integrity and honesty. He or she follows the dictates of his conscience that tells him what is morally right and wrong. He respects human rights and the dignity of every person. He is transparent and accountable in the conduct of his public office,” he said.
Because most of the candidates are promising change, Ledesma urged voters to look into the life of the candidates and determine whether they have undergone change themselves and are living moral lives.
“Candidates who have not undergone change themselves and live moral lives are not worthy and capable of changing our society. Change begins within each one of us. It is we as a people who can change our society. So once again, we appeal to you to vote according to your conscience. And to vote for candidates of conscience – i.e., persons of moral integrity,” he stressed.
While he did not mention any names, Ledesma singled out Davao City mayor and presidential front-runner Rodrigo Duterte and other Davao City officials for the unsolved extra-judicial killings perpetrated under their watch.
“As Christians, we believe in the dignity of every person made in God’s image and from which flow human rights – the most basic of which is the right to life. The Church proclaims the Gospel of life and opposes the culture of death” which is manifested in “abortion, war, capital punishment, and extra-judicial killings,” he stressed.
Summary killing, Ledesma said, can never be justified whoever the victims are—suspected criminals or rebels or workers on strike. “These killings are illegal, immoral and sinful.”
Citing the blog of Redemptorist priest Fr. Amado Picardal, Ledesma said that from 1998-2015, the DDS had killed at least 1,424 individuals in Davao City, including 132 children (17 years and below).
“None of the perpetrators…have been apprehended. The prime responsibility for the inaction over these unsolved crimes must rest squarely on the mayor and local government officials. A city with such a high rate of unsolved killings cannot be called a city of peace and order,” he said.
The 73-year-old archbishop reminded the electorate not to vote for corrupt politicians “who use their office to enrich themselves and have millions of pesos deposited in their bank accounts.”
“Can a genuine Christian, in conscience, vote for corrupt candidates?” he asked.
Echoing Pope Francis’s reminder about global warming and the need to protect the environment, Ledesma said that “ecological destruction is also a manifestation of the culture of death.”
“As Christians we need to care for the needy and to care for the earth. Can a genuine Christian, in conscience, elect candidates who destroy the environment through irresponsible logging and mining and issue permits that destroy our natural resources?” he asked.
As to candidates who are unfaithful to the spouse, he asked “can a genuine Christian, in conscience, vote for those who flaunt their infidelities?” as he reminded everyone that “adultery is sinful and immoral, a violation of the sixth and ninth commandments.”
Lastly, Ledesma urged the voters “not to sell your votes.” (Bong D. Fabe)