The 1984 Plebiscite and Elections
A Statement of the Administrative Council
of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
To the People of God:
Very soon we will be faced once again with political exercises in the form of a Plebiscite on January 27, 1984 and the Batasan elections in May 1984. Knowing that these political exercises will take place at a time of national crisis, we deem it our duty as your Pastors to write these few words by way of guiding you in the moral choices you will have to make.
We are not unaware of the fact that there are those who advocate boycott of both the Plebiscite and the Batasan elections. They argue that participating is another implicit ratification of the 1973 Constitution whose validity they question. They object that the idea of a Vice Presidency is a mere amendment of that same Constitution. They would refuse to participate as long as the present President is in office. They perceive a foreign government intervention in both the succession issue and the Batasan elections. In a word, they consider these political exercises as useless, ineffective, diversionary, and even immoral.
However, there are also those who see a more favorable climate through an aroused citizenry in the aftermath of the Aquino assasination. They believe that radical changes must indeed take place in our society, but that these changes must be achieved through non-violent means. They point to the de facto effectivity of the 1973 Constitution and desire to change what needs to be changed through the use of this de facto situation. Thus with the greatest seriousness and urgency, they believe that participation in the electoral processes in these most critical of times may be the last viable hope for the peaceful alternative to any violent approach for change. They think that non-participation may be playing into the hands of those who advocate change through violent revolution. Some have volunteered their services in a nationwide campaign to ensure free and honest elections. Among their hopes are a more independent COMELEC, a new voters’ list, and a massive citizens’ action policing the polls.
As Bishops we have in the past emphasized the moral duty to vote in an election. This is a general norm operative under normal conditions. Still, it is not for us to tell you concretely whom to vote for or indeed whether or not to vote in these undoubtedly far from normal times. That decision is reserved to the individual conscience.
But we do want to express certain concerns from the viewpoint of personal and social responsibility. Therefore, in part reiterating some ideas we have issued in the past (e.g. Statement of the CBCP on the Referendum of February 27, 1975), we now offer the following guidelines.
In the light of the unusual circumstances in our country today, the right of citizens not to participate in political exercises they consider contrary to the dictates of conscience has to be respected. Any penalty on those who fail to vote or who abstain from voting and openly express their stand should be suspended.
All those involved in the electoral process (COMELEC, poll officers and watchers, and others) are accountable both to God and to our people in preserving the sanctity of the ballot.
There must be free public discussion of the vital issues involved for a sufficient period of time.
Every citizen should be afforded the opportunity freely to express his views, know the views of others and discuss them with an assurance from the government that no man shall be imprisoned or subjected to threats of imprisonment or other forms of reprisal for exercising his right to free speech or peaceful assembly.
Civil government and the military establishment, especially in rural areas, must heed the clamor of our people by ensuring the proper climate of freedom and fair play. They must desist from any action that would frighten the citizenry and deprive them effectively of their basic freedom.
The power to supervise voting, canvassing, publishing of results should be entrusted to a reputable and acceptable body, manned by persons of competence, integrity and impartiality.
A new, clean and honest list of voters must be prepared with the help of concerned citizens, and genuine citizen participation in the conduct of the plebiscite and election must be organized.
In these hard times the temptation is great to let money determine the outcome of the polls. It is always immoral to sell one’s vote or to buy votes.
Our country is a sovereign nation. Its history of freedom is marked by struggles against foreign domination. No foreign power is to meddle with out political sovereignty by attempting to determine in any way the conduct of our electoral processes.
We appeal to the citizenry as a whole to act responsibly and vigilantly, having foremost in mind the common good rather than their individual selfish interest. Let this be the norm in all decisions whether they are participating in the elections or not.
Finally, we suggest that both before the plebiscite and the elections a day be set aside as a day of prayer. We end by invoking the Holy Spirit for guidance that everyone concerned will rise to the challenge that is before us in a spirit of genuine patriotism and social responsibility.
God bless you all.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(SGD)+ANTONIO Ll. MABUTAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
President, Administrative Council
January 8, 1984, Manila
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
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The 1984 Plebiscite and Elections