Church Leaders Asked To Explain Endorsements

Feb 12, 2003 08:26 PM EST

MANILA - A Manila judge has ordered five religious leaders, including Archbishop of Manila Jaime Cardinal Sin, El Shaddai Leader Mike Velarde, and Iglesia ni Cristo executive minister Eraño Manalo, to answer a lawsuit questioning their endorsement of certain candidates during elections.

In a complaint filed Monday by the Manila-based lawyers' group Social Justice Society (SJS), Judge Concepcion Alarcon-Vergara of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 49 said that if they fail to respond, judgment by default will be taken against them for the relief demanded.

Social Justice System (SJS), a lawyers’ group, has asked the court to declare whether the act of a religious leader of endorsing a candidate for elective office is a violation of the Constitution.

In their petition for declaratory relief, Samson Alcantara, SJS president, said they have also asked the court to rule on the practice of some religious leaders requiring their flock to vote for a particular candidate.

Alcantara said the Philippines is not a theocratic state and so religious leaders should not be allowed to intervene in the running of government.

The petition stated "the Church’s active participation in partisan politics, using the awesome voting strength of its faithful flock, will enable it to elect men to public office who will in turn be forever beholden to its leaders, enabling them to control the government"

Alcantara said SJS, which has thousands of members, would like the court to rule on the constitutionality of the participation of religious leaders in partisan politics.

"The people’s faith in the electoral process may be eroded if religious leaders take part in partisan politics and it may also reinforce their notion that religious leaders determine the outcome of elections," Alcantara added.

By Y.Hilado, ChToday Philippines
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