Bishops warn voters vs overspending candidates

Bishops warn voters vs overspending candidates

Sixteen members of the Catholic prelate led by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales called on voters on Saturday to beware of overspending candidates, saying that lavish campaign expenses in the past did not prove beneficial to the country.

“Excessive campaign expenses in the past did not augur good and responsive governance," Cardinal Rosales along with 15 other bishops belonging to the Manila Metropolitan Ecclesiastical Province said in a pastoral statement on Saturday, excerpts of which were posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news site.

With more than P2 billion already spent by candidates on political advertisements alone, this year’s election is touted to be the most expensive in the country’s history, according to Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) executive director Malou Mangahas.

“Everybody seems to be spending like crazy on advertisements," Mangahas said in a forum earlier this week.

The Catholic criteria

The bishops' pastoral statement also pointed out that freedom in an election means “no physical coercion" or “threat or money used to influence or to buy votes."

The bishops asked voters to “choose freely the leaders of the country who shall be accountable to serve them."

They said voters should tally the candidates’ respective positions on the issues of corruption and poverty, the “two major issues disabling the country today… (haunting) the country with destructive mutuality" because “as corruption increases, poverty worsens."

The prelates also stressed that voters should choose candidates who are “God-fearing; moral; not given to vices; reverent of life and its deserved decency," those with real concern for the environment and the poor, and those that provide good examples of responsible Filipino citizenship.

The Manila Metropolitan Ecclesiastical Province include the Dioceses of Antipolo, Imus, Malolos, Parañaque, San Pablo, Taytay, Cubao, Kalookan, Novaliches, Pasig, Puerto Princesa and the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines.

The pastoral letter initiated by Cardinal Rosales will be read in all parishes and churches of the Archdiocese and Dioceses of the Ecclesiastical Province on Sunday, March 14, or the Sunday after in some areas.

Directed towards Villar

The pastoral statement, which appears to be just “an appeal to the conscience," is obviously directed towards Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., according to Ateneo de Manila University political professor Benito Lim.

“Although this statement is just telling voters to use their conscience, ’yung statement na ‘yan is partisan. They (the bishops) are directing it against one candidate at maliwanag na si Villar ’yun.," Lim told GMANews.TV in a telephone interview.

Villar has spent over P1 billion on campaign advertisements since November last year, according to AGB Nielsen.

Asked why the pastoral statement may have been directed against Villar, Lim answered, “Hindi natin alam kung bakit, pero siguro gustong ipakita ng Simbahan that they don’t want people who spend too much for votes, which they believe is immoral."

The political science professor likewise said that although the pastoral statements will be read in churches within the Manila archdiocese, it might have no effect on voters’ choices.

“This statement will just reinforce the belief of those who do not like Villar. It will not convert or make people change their votes, especially if they like Villar," he said.

Biggest spenders

Based on studies conducted by AGB Nielsen, Senator Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party is so far the biggest spender in television advertisements alone, amounting to P1.3 billion from November 1 last year to March 2 this year.

Administration candidate Gilberto Teodoro’s expenses in the same period amounted to P472 million, with only P60,480 since the start of the campaign period on February 9.

Former president Joseph Estrada of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino came in third with P88 million, followed closely by Senator Benigno Aquino III of the Liberal Party with P87 million. Senator Richard Gordon of Bagumbayan has so far spent P67.3 million.

Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized Elections Law mandates that candidates running for president and vice-president should spend only P10 for every registered voter within the official campaign period.

This means that, with a projected total of 50 million voters in the upcoming polls, each candidate for either national position is only authorized to spend around P500 million for their respective campaigns.—With Andreo C. Calonzo/JV, GMANews.TV

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Jesus images found in a tree, a crab, and other unexpected places

Jesus images found in a tree, a crab, and other unexpected places

Some time before Holy Week last year, 58-year-old housekeeper Remy Heneralo was grilling fish beneath an acacia tree. At first, there was nothing out of the ordinary. But as she watched the smoke curl up toward the sky, her eyes fell on what appeared to be the image of Jesus on a stump where a branch had been cut.

"Sabi ko, ‘Ma’m halika, tingnan mo ‘yung puno. ‘Yung drawing,’ 'ka ko. Tapos sabi niya, ‘Si Nazareno, si Nazareno ‘yun, Jesus!’" Remy recalled excitedly in an episode of “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” aired last March 24.

Believing that Jesus Christ's face was on the tree, they called it the "Holy Face of Jesus Christ." Since then, devotees would visit that area of Subic Bay Freeport, where they say the image is still recognizable even after more than a year.

Biologist Dr. Mudjekeewis Santos explained that as the image is found where the branch was cut, it may have been formed by the sap which blackens when it is exposed.

"Kasi nandoon siya doon sa naputol na part nung acacia. And may dagta ‘yun. And ‘yung dagta na ‘yun ‘pag na-expose nangingitim and tumutulo ‘yun. So maaaring dahil doon sa pagtulo ng dagta doon na-form ‘yung image," he said.

In everyday objects

This is only one of many instances around the world where people have claimed to have found the image of Jesus on everyday objects, from irons to potato chips.

On Ash Wednesday this year, a man in New Mexico claimed to have seen the image of the Lord on a tortilla, the Daily Mail reported.

It seems even living creatures can be "miracle-bringers," as housewife Lilian Antiquerra experienced last August in Barangay San Roque in Legazpi City, Albay.

Her brother was preparing a dozen fresh crabs for their lunch when he noticed one crab was unlike the others. The mysterious crab appeared to have the image of their patron saint, San Roque, on its belly. Instead of cooking the crab in coconut milk, Lilian preserved it in a glass box.

"’Yung mga pinakitaan ko ng time na ‘yun talagang lahat parang kinilabutan daw sila. Ang kinakatakutan talaga namin ‘yung dagat, parang pahiwatig na ibig sabihin ililigtas," said Lilian.

The box was placed in the family grotto, where they would pray together. They said that because of the crab, the family has become closer.

Despite Lilian's painstaking efforts to preserve the image, they said it began to fade after almost seven months.

"Lahat naman nagsasabi na darating din ang panahon na parang mag-aagnas. Sabi ko, 'Okay lang basta hindi namin siya itatapon.' Siguro kung sa amin, 'yan ang tanda ng talagang hindi kami maghihiwahiwalay," said Lilian.


According to Bishop Deogracia Iñiquez of the Diocese of Caloocan, these sightings may be the Lord's way of reminding His followers of His presence. But the bishop said such sightings must be taken in the context of faith.

"Ito ay mga pamamaraan na maaaring ginagamit ng Panginoon upang paalalahanan tayo upang ipakilala Siya. Pero dapat ito'y ating ituring, ito ay ating laging tinatanggap, sa konteksto ng ating pananampalataya," he said. –KG, GMA News

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Diocese to launch financial help for OFW families

Diocese to launch financial help for OFW families

MANILA, Philippines — Families of overseas Filipino workers stand to benefit from a financial service program of the Diocese of Caloocan, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said.

An article on the CBCP website ( said the Pamilyang OFW Savers and Wellness Club (POSWC) will be launched on July 18 at the St. Mary’s Academy in Caloocan City.

Organized by the Caloocan Diocesan Desk for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and their Families (KADMI), POSWC aims to help families of OFWs, particularly children, and instill in them the importance of saving money.

The CBCP Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (CBCP-ECMI) and Pioneer Life helped organize the program.

A mass presided by Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. will kick off the launching ceremonies.

ECMI Luzon Coordinator Edmund Ruga will introduce the program to the attendees while KADMI director Fr. Ruben Maybuena will give his welcoming speech.

ECMI executive secretary Fr. Edwin Corros and Pioneer Life Senior Vice President Ferdinand Berba will also give their messages. - GMANews.TV

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Church officials: Beware of fake priests blessing tombs

Church officials: Beware of fake priests blessing tombs

Church authorities have warned Catholics about fake priests who go around cemeteries asking for donations after blessing tombs.

In an interview over Radio Veritas on Monday, Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo warned the public about the modus operandi of men in church garb who pretend to be priests and go around cemeteries blessing graves, then wait for the dead's loved ones to fork over a donation.

Some fake priests are equipped with "holy water" bottles and other props, and accompanied by boys who look like sacristans.

Radio Veritas President and Caritas Manila Executive Director Fr.Anton Pascual explained that real priests do not go around cemeteries blessing tombs because this rite is done when the deceased is buried.

Priests, however, may be asked to bless tombs upon the request of the family of the deceased.

To verify if a person is truly a priest, Arigo said the public should ask the person to show his "identification (ID) celebret," a document that will show that the person has authority to administer the sacraments.

Arigo said, "Dito sa diocese namin sa Palawan ay hindi natin pinapayagan ang mga pekeng pari na magbasbas sa mga puntod sa mga sementeryo."

He said unscrupulous people can easily pretend to be priests to earn money.

He thus urged the public to be cautious and not to trust easily those who approach them at the cemetery. "Sana mag-ingat sila at huwag basta magtiwala sa mga pumupunta sa puntod para magbasbas," he said.

Meanwhile, Radio Veritas' Fr. Pascual said it is easy to distinguish real priests from fake ones.

A true priest always brings his ID and celebret signed by the bishop of the diocese where he is serving.

“Kung ang isang pari ay nagbabasbas ng puntod sa mga sementerto ngayong panahon ng undas ay magduda na tayo, tatanungin mo na ito kung mayroong siyang ID celebret para matiyak na siya ay hindi bogus na pari," Pascual said.

Remembering the deceased

Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco urged Catholics to reexamine how they commemorate All Souls' Day.

“Marami sa mga ginagawa ng tao ngayon ay dapat itama. Ang mga tradisyon na nawala ng diwa ng kahulugan,ng kabuluhan dahil nga hindi pinagdiriwang sa tamang paraan," he said.

He reminded that Halloween or All Hallows Eve should be a holy celebration because it is the eve of All Hallows or All Saints Day.

Ongtioco said, "kabaligtaran ang nangyayari. Ang nakita natin demonyo yung mga symbols na ginagamit. If the devil comes in the picture because of the saints they were triumphant over evil."

He also emphasized the need to pray for the deceased when visiting cemeteries.

“Hindi naman bawal ang mag-kwentuhan, pero yung purpose ng pagpunta natin ay para magdasal kahit sandali, kahit ilang minute lang, sama-sama bilang community dahil kapag ang ilang tao ay nakaipon sa ngalan ni Hesus it becomes the prayer of Jesus. When two or three if gathered I am in the needs of them, in His name but we may gathered in different name," he said.

Security in cemeteries

Meanwhile, Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez instructed security guards at the La Loma Cemetery and other memorial parks in the Diocese ng Kalookan to ask priests blessing tombs to show their ID celebret.

“Dapat nating mapigilan ang masamang balakin ng mga nagpapanggap na pari upang makapagsagawa ng pagbabasbas sa mga puntod ng yumao at maningil sa mga namatayan," Iñiguez said over Radio Veritas.

"Dapat sa gate pa lang ng mga sementeryo ay mapigilan na ang mga pekeng pari. Ipinagbabawal natin ang mga pekeng pari sa lahat ng sementeryo na nasasakupan ng Diocese ng Kalookan," he said.

Called to be holy

Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros said the commemoration of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day should remind Catholics about the Second Vatican Council's call to be holy.

“Batay sa paalala ng Second Vatican Council,We are called to be holy, ito ang pagpapaalala at hamon sa atin na mayroong tayong misyon sa lupa na magpakabanal.Sa ating araw-araw na buhay ay magnilay tayo at sikaping gumawa ng mabuti," he said. - VVP/HS, GMA News

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Manila devotees pay their respects to Calungsod image

Manila devotees pay their respects to Calungsod image

Amid the midday heat, devotees lined up in Manila Wednesday to get a glimpse of the image and pay their respects to San Pedro Calungsod, the country's second saint.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said "thousands" of devotees went to the area near the Manila Cathedral where the Calungsod image resides.

"Swarms of worshippers pressed forward to touch, kiss or wipe their handkerchiefs on the image in the hopes its powers will touch their lives," the CBCP said on its news site Wednesday night.

Wednesday's stops in Manila and Caloocan City, precedes the image's Thursday visits to dioceses in Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Manila Archbishop and cardinal designate Luis Antonio Tagle led a Mass held near the Manila Cathedral.

“After this very big blessing [Calungsod’s canonization], let us ponder on what it means to be a martyr. Read about the life of Saint Pedro Calungsod and listen to the many catecheses about him,” said Tagle in his homily.

Present at the noontime Mass were Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim; Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s sister Victoria Elisa Aquino-Dee; Commission on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. and Comelec commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Rene Sarmiento and Christian Robert Lim; former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., and former Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican Henrietta de Villa.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Bernardino Cortez, Novaliches Emeritus Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr. and many priests concelebrated the Mass with Tagle.

From the Manila Cathedral, the image was brought to the San Roque Cathedral in the Diocese of Caloocan. It is expected to be at the Diocese of Imus by Thursday.

The image is also set to visit Lipa, Lucena, Daet, and Legazpi, in Southern Luzon and Catarman, Calbayog, Palo and Maasin, in Visayas.

After the Visayas leg, the image will visit Surigao, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Pagadian, Ozamiz, Dipolog, Dumaguete, Kabankalan, Bacolod, Jaro, San Carlos, Tagbilaran, and Talibon in Mindanao.

On Nov. 27, the image will be brought back to Cebu City from Bohol, the last stop of the “Duaw Nasud” or Nation Visit, in preparation for the national thanksgiving celebration on Nov. 30.

Saint Pedro Calungsod’s image returned to the Philippines last Oct. 25, after being brought to Rome for Calungsod's canonization last Oct. 21. — DVM, GMA News

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