Joint Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines on Elections

When the news was brought to the Blessed Apostle Paul that factions had arisen in the Christian community at Corinth, and were threatening to break the bond of charity which was the distinguishing mark of the people of God, he wrote to them a letter of firm yet tender admonition, in which he said: “The account I have of you, my brethren … is that there are dissensions among you; each of you, I mean has a cry of his own, I am for Paul, I am for Apollo, I am for Cephas, I am for Christ. What, has Christ been divided up? Was it Paul that was crucified for you?” (I Cor. 1/11-13). Differences of opinion and of policy are inevitable in any society, granted the limitations of the human mind and will; but among Christians, and even among those who, though not Christians, are in sympathy with the principles of the Christian revelation, there should be no difference that cannot be settled amicably, no antagonism that could make us forget our common origin and destiny as children of the same God and adoptive brothers of the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We here in the Philippines are approaching a very important event – the general elections, and party rivalry has been brought to the keenest pitch. This rivalry is in itself a good sign, as indicating a growing awareness among our people of public issues, an increased political maturity. But since such rivalry always carries with it the danger of civic dissension and national disunity, it seems opportune at this time that some moderating influence should make itself felt, which shall be capable of calming irritated tempers, and ensuring that sound principles of prudence and morality rather than factional hatred and personal enmities should dominate the conduct of the elections.

A non-Partisan Appeal

It is with this intention that We address to you this letter, making our own the words of the great Apostles of the Gentiles: “I entreat you, brethren, as you love the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, use, all of you, the same language. There must be no divisions among you; you must be restored to unity of mind and purpose.” (I Cor. 1:10). We are confident that this Our message will be received in the spirit in which it is offered. All are aware that our consecration as Bishops of the Universal Church has set us wholly apart from all factional divisions of whatever kind. We neither favor or repudiate any legitimate political association; and indeed, We are and have always been extremely careful not to interfere in anything that is of an exclusively political nature. If We raise our voice now, it is not, be it understood once for all, to favor one political party against another, but to ensure, as far as in us lies, that all political parties conform to those eternal principles of human conduct which underlie all social and political life.

Statement of Principles

The two great foundation stones of a well-ordered commonwealth are charity and justice. Justice has been well defined as the constant will to give to everyone what is due to him. Every human person has certain rights which are his by the mere fact that he has a human nature. They cannot therefore be taken away, even with his consent, for to do so would be tantamount to depriving him of his human personality. Hence they are called inalienable; and the American Declaration of Independence sums them up as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is to secure these rights, to guarantee their existence and proper exercise, that God, the Author of nature, instituted civil society. The whole aim and purpose of civil society is not the glorification or aggrandizement of some mythical entity separate from and superior to the people, whether it be called State, Nation or Race; nor is it the attainment of some equally mythical earthly paradise such as the classless society of the communists; but is none other than justice may be done to all, and that each member of the community may receive what is due to him, namely, his inalienable rights. Hence it is that the supreme virtue to be looked for in the rulers of a commonwealth is justice.

Now the rulers of a democratic republic such as the Philippines – and by rulers we mean those in whom political authority resides in a stable manner and to its full extent – are the body of citizens. For democracy differs from other forms of government in this, that it is self-governing; there is no essential distinction in it between lords and subjects, between rulers and ruled.

Experience has shown, however, that when the republic is a nation consisting of millions of people inhabiting an extensive territory, the citizens cannot effectively and efficiently exercise their authority themselves, but must communicate it to certain representatives of their own choosing who will administer that authority in their behalf.

These representatives of the people and executives of their authority are not chosen permanently, but for a term of years defined in the fundamental law or constitution of the republic; at the end of which the citizens are given a fresh opportunity, through the holding of elections, to decide whether they wish to retain their former representatives in office, or to replace them with new ones.

Free Elections

It is clear from what has been said that the aims of justice would not be achieved unless the will of the people is given full expression through free and fair elections. Surely every political leader worthy of the name must see that to violate the secrecy of the ballot or to tamper with the election returns is to strike a blow at the very heart of our democratic system. We refuse to believe that any political leader will even think of attacking or undermining the sacred freedom of the polls.

However, should anyone attempt to do so, We wish to make it known that such a man commits a grievous crime against the fundamental law of our Republic, against the established right of all its citizens, and against the very security of the country. God will surely punish, if the State does not, anyone who for personal or party considerations will sink so low as to prevent or sabotage free and fair elections, thus depriving the will of the people of its effect, and those whom the people choose as their representatives of their lawfully-acquired positions.

The Duty to Vote

The vote, however, is not merely a right to be protected – it is a duty to be fulfilled. Every qualified citizen of a democratic republic has a duty to vote, and to vote for those candidates who would in his honest opinion best discharge the duties of the office to which he is elected. This duty can be a grave duty, that is, one which must be performed under pain of mortal sin, when there is danger of evil men obtaining control of the government unless they are decisively voted down.

Unless evil men are excluded from office and good men placed in office, justice will not be done; and if justice is not done, the whole aim and purpose of civil society is defeated, and our Republic brought to the brink of destruction. No other consideration, therefore, must be allowed to take precedence over this supreme directive of the social and political conscience: that the citizen must give his vote to those among the candidates for office whose past political record, whose private and public life, and whose policies and views, stated or implied, give the most solid reasons for believing that to dispense justice to all alike will be the unswerving aim of their administration.

The Limitations of Loyalty

The voter should be especially on his guard lest personal or party loyalty, or a sense of gratitude for favors received or promised, should becloud his judgment as to the competence and moral fitness of candidates for office. Loyalty and gratitude are very great virtues which we Filipinos have always highly regarded. However, there is a hierarchy of values and objects for these as well as for all the other virtues, a hierarchy which must be observed if they are not to degenerate into vices. Thus, it would be an inversion of right order, and clear violation of justice, if a citizen were to put his loyalty to a person or party before his loyalty to the nation at large. The needs and interests of the whole community must always take precedence over the profit and advantage of a part of it; and, a fortiori, of any individual.

And let it not be thought that withdrawing one’s allegiance from a leader or a party for reasons of national interests is ingratitude, faithlessness, or treason. No one political leader, no one political party is, or can ever be, in a democratic system, identified with the nation as a whole. When a citizen pledges allegiance to a political leader or party, it is always with the proviso, expressed or implied, that allegiance is not contrary to one’s more fundamental loyalty to the true interests of the people.

This should not be interpreted, however, as justifying those defections from party allegiance which are motivated merely by opportunism, or are the result of intrigues and secret agreements which cast dishonor not only on the individuals involved, but on the party system as a whole. The party system, if properly organized and conducted, is one of the strongest bulwarks of democratic government. But it can be properly organized and conducted only in an atmosphere of what may be called civic friendship; and this brings us to our second consideration, namely, charity as an essential constituent of the well-ordered commonwealth.

Civic Charity

It is natural, and only to be expected, that the rivalry of political parties in a closely-contested election should generate a certain amount of heat. This necessary competition, however, should not be permitted to endanger the essential unity of the nation, and for this it will help to remember that while political parties may differ on many issues, they are, or should be, in complete agreement as to their fundamental objective, which is the service and advancement of the commonwealth to which they belong, in accordance with the basic tenets and principles of its constitution. This is that bond of civic friendship, or charity, which binds us all together into one people, and if we bear it in mind, it will at once be obvious, how absurd and dangerous it is for the members or leaders of one party to consider those of another party as their mortal enemies. There cannot be, there ought not to be, any question of enmity or hatred between parties, any more than between children of the same household who happen to have a difference of views.

It would be disastrous if the opinion should become general among us that the rivalry of parties is a kind of fight to the finish, whose final issue is the triumph of one party and the utter destruction of the other. This would be the natural and inevitable atmosphere of politics in a nation that has lost all sense of spiritual values; but we are a Christian nation, whose indestructible basis of unity is the brotherhood of all men under the Fatherhood of God. In Catholic doctrine, this brotherhood is not merely a legal fiction, but a supernatural reality; through baptism we have all been born again in Christ, and found in Christ a bond that is stronger than flesh and blood.

In the interest, then, of that civic friendship which is a reflection of the supernatural charity of the Church, We call upon all Catholic citizens to stiffen the resistance of the whole community against any attempt to sow seeds of dissension among us, or to deprive us of the sacred freedom to choose those who shall exercise authority in our Republic. Catholic Action organizations, especially, would render a signal service to the country by cooperating wholeheartedly with other non-partisan bodies in preventing factional strife and guaranteeing the freedom of the ballot.

It is in the Sweet Name of Mary, the Mother of God, on whose feast day this letter is being issued, that We make our appeal. She is the Patroness of the Philippines; may She watch over us, as She has always done in the past, on this important occasion, which may well be one of the decisive turning points of our history.


September 12, 1953 – Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary.



Archbishop of Cebu


Archbishop of Nueva Segovia

(Sgd.)+JAMES T. G. HAYES, SJ, D.D.

Archbishop of Cagayan


Archbishop of Nueva Caceres


Archbishop of Jaro


Archbishop of Manila; Apostolic Administrator of Lipa


Bishop of Zamboanga


Bishop of Tagbilaran


Bishop of Lingayen


Apostolic Administrator of Lucena

(Sgd.)+JUAN C. SISON, D.D.

Auxiliary Bishop of Nueva Segovia


Vicar Apostolic of Mt. Province


Bishop of Tuguegarao


Auxiliary Bishop of Manila


Bishop of Bacolod


Prelate Nullius of Cotabato & Sulu


Vicar Apostolic of Calapan


Bishop of Capiz


Bishop of Legaspi


Bishop of Sorsogon


Prelate Nullius of Infanta


Apostolic Administrator of Ozamiz



The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines

The Official Website of

CBCP Online


Joint Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines on Elections