IT may be said that it was only on this 2013 midterm elections that the Laity has been rather aggressive in distinctively participating in the political exercise as Catholics. True, this was triggered proximately with the passage of the Reproductive Health Law; which was why the organized groups that did political education—and even the endorsement of candidates—for the first time, largely came from pro-life organizations. But there should be more implications that meet the eye.
The most prominent among them was the White Vote Movement (WVM) which was initiated by the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas (LAIKO) “in response to perceived mounting sentiments among different lay groups in the country regarding lay Faithful’s role in preserving core family values.” Another is a group called Catholic Vote Philippines (CVP) which was launched few days before the victory of the RH supporters in Congress has December. Unlike the former, this group did not formally endorse any candidate but went around the country conducting “political catechesis” to target groups. Both groups are aggrupations of different Catholic lay organizations with the common end in view of barring anti-life candidates from getting majority seats in both houses of Congress. And there are more groups of this kind: Lay Solidarity Movement, Catholic Philippines, and Conscience Vote Movement.
Come to think of it, this is a realization, albeit perhaps initially, of a vision of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines. PCP-II states: “In the Philippines today, given the general perception that politics has become an obstacle to integral development, the urgent necessity is for the lay faithful to participate more actively, with singular competence and integrity, in political affairs.” (PCP-II, 348). Moreover, in its Decrees, PCP-II provides, the laity must “help form civic conscience of the voting population and work to explicitly promote the election of leaders of true integrity to public office.” (PCP-II, Art. 8, #1). Renewing the political order according to Gospel principles and values is a tall mission of the Catholic laity. And this without even dwelling into the purview of Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II that says a lot more.
Even without considering the results of the polls, especially for the Senate where a good number of those endorsed by the WVM made it to the magic twelve, the impact of having to band together for a singular purpose is considerable enough—even though this was just an initial salvo. This may percolate more along the way to the next political exercise. Says the head of Laiko, Atty. Aurora Santiago: “We’ve seen the effect if we’ll stay united. We are expecting more groups to join our crusade…Our campaign does not stop until 2013. We have to get ready this early for 2016.” Linda Valenzona of CVP joins the chorus: “With the commitment and dedication of everyone, CVP will rise up again to the challenge of 2016 (presidential elections).”
This new initiative may not sit comfortably well with some Catholics or even with some clerics that easily. But a cursory check with the “Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics” and the “Catechism on the Church and Politics” of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines will tell us that this was what the Catholic Church has been saying all along.