Robredo denies using Catholic Church for campaign; Marcos, Moreno hit Church’s role on elections

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 5) – Three presidential candidates reacted on the Catholic Church’s involvement in the campaign trail for the 2022 elections.

Vice President Leni Robredo denied she is using the church to boost her candidacy.

Masyado naman yata ‘yung insulto sa simbahan," Robredo said in an ambush interview during her campaign tour in Cavite on Friday. "Tingin ko, ang simbahan hindi naman magpapagamit. ‘Yung simbahan, mas matatag na institusyon ito kaysa sa aming mga pulitiko.

[Translation: It is an insult to the Church. In my view, the Church will not allow itself to be used. The Church is a stronger institution than us politicians.]

Robredo made the remark after she faced criticisms for meeting with religious leaders at the Cathedral-Shrine and Parish of the Good Shepherd in Novaliches, Quezon City on March 1.

The Vice President explained she has been visiting churches to seek help in fighting disinformation in the election season.

Ang paniniwala ko, hindi na ito kung sino ‘yung kandidato mo sa eleksyon pero para sa akin, fight ito nating lahat na sisiguraduhin natin na ‘yung election na ito hindi siya dedesisyunan na base sa false information," she also said.

[Translation: In my belief, this fight is not only who will be your candidate for the election. But for me, this will be a fight to ensure that this election will not be decided based on false information.]

"And we need all the help we can get, ‘yung simbahan meron syang makinarya on the ground,” she added.

[Translation: And we need all the help we can get, since the Church has the machinery on the ground.]

Reacting from Robredo’s meeting inside a church, Aksyon Demokratiko presidential bet Isko Moreno said he was offended that a place of prayer is being used for political gatherings.

Katoliko rin po kami, hindi lang po kayo ang may ari niyan," said Moreno, who is in Kalinga on Saturday. "‘Yan po ay pag-aari ng lahat ng kasapi ng simbahang Katoliko.

[Translation: We are also Catholics, you are not the only owner of that. The church is owned by all the members of the Catholic Church.]

The incumbent Manila mayor clarified that he will still seek the endorsement of religious groups for his presidential bid, but emphasized that the confines of a Catholic church should only be meant for prayer.

Moreno and his slate recently attended a mass at the Saint Joseph Cathedral in Balanga City, Bataan during Ash Wednesday and received ashes on their foreheads from Bataan Diocese Bishop Ruperto Santos.

Meanwhile, Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard bearer Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. appealed to the Catholic Church to refrain from meddling in politics.

“We are saddened by the men and women of the Catholic clergy who are doing the exact opposite and have abused the pulpit, allowing it to become a platform for hateful and negative campaigning,” said Marcos spokesman Atty. Vic Rodriguez.

Rodriguez added, “As men and women of the cloth, they should be more circumspect, refrain from openly meddling with politics and stop making reckless imputation or statement that only serves as a spiritual, moral, social and cultural poison.”

Rodriguez's statement appears to take a jab on the Feb. 25 pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which warned Filipinos on “radical distortions” about the Martial Law history under the rule of Marcos' late father. 

The CBCP insisted it will not endorse a candidate in the 2022 polls, but it encouraged the faithful to be more involved in empowering voters to choose candidates with upright morals and principles.