Bishops, Ulamas Meet to Discuss May Polls

Monday, April 26th, 2010

MANILA, April 24, 2010-Mindanao-based Catholic bishops and ulamas are set to meet later this month to discuss the upcoming May polls amid looming scenario of a failure of elections.

Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla, convenor of Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC), said the interfaith meeting is meant to gather more information to guide them in decision making should the elections come out not credible.

He admitted that "the rumors, especially in Mindanao, are very strong about the failure of elections..." adding, "...we will discuss what [we should] do if there's a failure of election..."

Capalla said the conference is very important as it will gather the three most stable organizations in the country: the police, military and the Church.

Expected to attend the meeting, aside from CBCP President and Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar, are Mindanao-based prelates and key officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police, Manila-based Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, Ulama League of the Philippines and the Military Ordinariate which serves the Armed Forces of the Philippines and PNP with Catholic, Protestant and Muslim chaplains.

Both AFP and PNP will provide updates on their preparations for the coming national and local elections, especially their effort to dismantle private armed groups, and the confiscation of loose firearms, Capalla said.

The Independent Commission Against Private Armies where Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos sits as Commissioner together with Davao City-based Alim Mahmod Adilao of the Ulama League will give a briefing on the issue.

A joint statement is likely to be issued after the assembly, according to Capalla. He disclosed that a draft has already been prepared and will be circulated among the eight groups participating in the two-day meeting for modification and approval.

"We would like to make a joint statement to appeal to the whole country to be more conscious of the national interests and the common good," he said.

He added that there is a need to call on everyone to do everything to make the coming elections honest, credible and peaceful.

"We will also appeal to the candidates to stop using black propaganda, mudslinging and character assassination against their opponents and to their fellow religious leaders to join them in fasting and prayer or novena for the success of the coming political exercise," Capalla furthered.

The Davao prelate said he personally wishes the people would seriously re-examine their moral values regarding elections and what's happening in the country.

"Drastic things have to be done to change the political system in the country and even governance that allow these things to happen," he explained.

The prelate said serious change has to happen in the country, but this should begin with the people.

Capalla emphasized the need to change one's views of the country, to deepen the spirit of patriotism and nationalism which is no longer mentioned in the schools today.

"Nobody would die for the country," he said. "But they would die for the party, or abroad, or for the money, but not for the country," he added.

The prelate said he is praying for the success of the coming elections.

He said 99 percent of Davao faithful want the political exercise to succeed despite rumors circulating that failure of elections is very possible.

The 39th BUC assembly is slated on April 28-29 at the Waterfront Hotel, Davao City. (Melo M. Acuna)