Bishops' Assembly Begins Today; Prelates Mulling Election Guidelines for the Faithful

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The 94th Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) starts today at the Pope Pius XII Center on United Nations Ave., Paco, Manila, wherein the bishops are expected to discuss and take a common stand on current vital issues.

The three-day event will particularly discuss issues related to the forthcoming senatorial and local elections in May.

"There is nothing earth-shaking in the agenda, just the usual reporting of the different commissions. On the last day, we will talk about elections, but it's not clear whether we will come out with a statement or not," Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, CBCP spokesman, said.

He said the bishops might also issue guidelines to the faithful for the mid-term elections as what they did in the past.

A press conference is tentatively scheduled at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 29, at the Pope Pius XII Center.

CBCP Vice President and Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma cited the possibility of the bishops' coming out with different pastoral letters.

"There's this possibility of coming out with several pastoral statements on the current situation. One is certainly on the coming elections," Ledesma said yesterday during the celebration of the 40th year anniversary of the National Secretariat for Social Action Justice and Peace in Intramuros, Manila.

Asked whether he thinks the elections this year will be chaotic, Ledesma said he is hoping that the May 14 elections would be peaceful.

"Hopefully, they should not be that way. For as long there are vigilant citizens' groups, and hopefully, also if the people are more educated and aware, they'll see the value of their vote. I think it's part of the challenge of preparing for the coming elections,'' the bishop said.

"The bishops are also concerned with having clean, orderly, honest elections. So whether this can be done through the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), or Votecare, those are also some of the mechanisms that we will discuss," he added.

Before the bishops' plenary meet, a three-day seminar was held at the Pope Pius XII Center wherein invited speakers, composed of public officials, lay leaders, and high- ranking prelates focused on the theme: "Collaboration of Priests, the Religious, and Lay in Addressing Crises in Governance".

Considered the highest decision-making body of the CBCP, the Plenary Assembly meets in regular session twice a year -- in January and July. When the Plenary Assembly is not in session, the Permanent Council acts for and on behalf of the Conference.

Meanwhile, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo yesterday reiterated its earlier call to the government for the immediate resolution of the plunder case of former President Joseph Estrada.

"For me, it's not reconciliation. The case should be resolved soon so we'll know if he really committed a crime or not," Pabillo said.

"I think it's just political will. Because in other cases, they (government officials) were able to fast track the resolution. But in this case, I believe it's not to their advantage if it would be resolved, so they are delaying it," he added. …