PPCRV: the Catholic Church in politics

MANILA, Philippines — Since my first column came out a month ago on Feb. 11, I have pursued one consistent theme: to enable our people to enjoy the full blessings of a prosperous, liberal democracy that adheres faithfully to the rule of law, we urgently need visionary leadership by example.

Crucial to the search for principled leaders are periodic elections. Unfortunately, our electoral exercises have been tainted with serious allegations of irregularities (dagdag-bawas, Hello Garci, massive vote-buying, terrorism and other forms of cheating).

Honest, orderly and peaceful elections. The Supreme Court is often referred to as the last bulwark of democracy; but the first bastion is honest, orderly and peaceful elections (HOPE). Like the judiciary, the Commission on Elections is constitutionally independent and granted with more than sufficient powers and functions to conduct credible elections.

Sadly, however, the present Comelec has been mired in various controversies that have placed into serious question its ability to fulfill its mandate. The forthcoming May elections are a new crucible for the Comelec to show its mettle and to rise above the mud.

In this heroic effort, the Comelec is luckily being assisted by its reinvigorated citizens? arm, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), led by its vision-driven president, Ambassador Henrietta T. de Villa. The PPCRV is a national, parish-based, political but nonpartisan, lay organization actively supported by the Catholic hierarchy.

The PPCRV was organized in response to Resolution 28 of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) which, in turn, was the Philippine “echo” of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). This Resolution asked Catholic lay leaders to “help form the civic conscience of the voting population” and “to promote the election to public office of leaders of true integrity.”

During its three-day National Conference on March 9-11, to which I had been invited as keynote speaker, PPCRV animated its diocesan leaders with “Faith and Fire,” so they could fulfill its missions of (1) voter education, and (2) poll watching.

Voter education. To make the electorate more aware of and knowledgeable on social and political issues, the PPCRV conducts year-round voter education in all parishes nationwide. It organized the Pinoy Voters Academy and crafted three modules derived from popular TV programs: (1) Pilipinas, Nag-Grow Ka Na Ba? (2) Kababayan, Laban o Bawi? and (3) Halalan Idol.

The first module analyzes the country’s current political and economic situation. The second imparts the social teachings and political apostolate of the Church. The third explains the qualifications that voters should look for in candidates. Recently, the Inquirer published the PPCRV’s “Ten Commandments for Responsible Candidacy” and “Ten Commandments for Responsible Voting.”

The PPCRV also holds a weekly radio program, “Boto Ko, Dangal Ko,” every Sunday at 11 a.m. over Radio Veritas and the Catholic Media Network affiliates. And it has partnered with ABS-CBN in sponsoring senatorial debates in “Forum 2007” every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m.

Poll watching. The PPCRV’s best-known activity is poll watching. It is unleashing 620,000 poll watchers to monitor the 310,000 precincts all over the country. To recruit its huge army, it is tapping about 250 volunteers from each of the 2,700 parishes nationwide. Additionally, the PPCRV is fielding SWAT (Social Witnesses Attesting Truth) teams to oversee specific areas of concern, such as communications, logistics, documentation and roving patrols.

It plans to ask its volunteers to secure, after the counting of votes in each polling precinct, a Certificate of Votes (COVs) duly authenticated by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI). They shall submit the COVs to the PPCRV Voters Assistance Desk (VAD) in every polling center.

The parish coordinators shall gather all the COVs from the VADs and forward them to the Arch/Diocesan Counting Centers for encoding, encryption and transmittal through its special Internet system to the PPCRV national office. The transmitted results shall then be consolidated and published in wide screens at the PPCRV National Operations Center and in its special, secure website (ppcrv.org), as well as in the media outlets of the Catholic Church.

“Hope” and “champ” of democracy. Consistent with its vision of CHAMP?clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful elections—the PPCRV will thus be in a position to validate the Comelec official count. Should this happen, the commission can then rise like a phoenix from its controversial past.

The PPCRV is asking our people to vote intelligently; to reject the traditional politics of “guns, goons and gold” and “payoff, personality and patronage”; and to elect individuals who embody the “glory, grace and gospel of God” and who exemplify “principles, programs and performance.”

In 1992, Fidel V. Ramos won the presidency by capturing only 23 percent of the votes, with a mere 900,000 plurality over his closest rival. Our people accepted his victory, because the elections were validated by an independent and competent Comelec supported by a credible PPCRV.

Indeed, by helping the Comelec conduct clean elections, the PPCRV may yet be our democracy’s hope and champ in searching for visionary and exemplary leaders.

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