A boy eats a free meal during a July 20 feeding program at a slum area in Manila, Philippines. The head of the Philippine bishops' conference said helping the poor and getting rid of political dynasties should be front and center in the months leading up to the country's May elections. CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

Poor, political dynasties should be issues in Philippine election, says archbishop

By  Simone Orendain, Catholic News Service
  • August 11, 2015

MANILA, Philippines - The head of the Philippine bishops' conference said helping the poor and getting rid of political dynasties should be front and centre in the months leading up to the country's May elections.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, conference president, said the poor should not be forgotten, especially since the country has made economic strides under President Benigno Aquino III's administration. The past five years have seen Philippine bonds reach investment grade for the first time ever, and the country's economy has consistently been one of Asia's top performers.

"While there are figures to prove that investments have risen and that economic fundamentals are strong, as pastors we are deeply concerned with the inclusiveness of economic gain," Archbishop Villegas said in an Aug. 11 statement. "Government and corporate figures remain items of cold statistics until they are translated into better lives by those now most disadvantaged."

The prelate also expressed disappointment in proposed "anti-dynasty" laws lingering in the Philippine Congress. Versions of the bill have failed because in the House about 150 of the more than 240 members are part of political families. In the Senate of 24, there are two sets of siblings, and at least a third of its members are related to other politicians, some of notable prominence.

Archbishop Villegas also pushed for including all sides in the debate over passing a proposed law that would see an autonomous Muslim-majority region on the island of Mindanao, after the country's largest Muslim rebel group and the government forged peace a year ago.

"We have always insisted that a peaceful and just settlement must be acceptable to all: Muslims and non-Muslims alike," he said.

The archbishop reminded Catholic voters they should "be actively engaged in the apostolate of evangelizing the political order" and that they should educate themselves on candidates' "platforms, plans, beliefs and convictions."

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