“Laudato Si is a must-read for our candidates”

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Faith groups and civil society organizations urged the aspirant leaders of the country in the coming 2016 Elections to incorporate the issues of the environment and human rights in their campaign platforms by seriously going through the Pope’s encyclical.

“All candidates, even the non-Catholic ones, can learn a lot of things from Laudato Si where Pope Francis succinctly discussed the connection of several environmental issues with the call for social justice,” Ed Garingan Anti-Mining project officer of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) said.

Laudato Si is Pope Francis’ encyclical released in June 2015.

The media conference was the product of a National Forum on Laudato Si and the 2016 elections organized by PMPI and the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA/Caritas Filipinas) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Saturday, April 9, in Quezon City. About 100 church workers and CSO leaders were present.

“We hope that our candidates recognize the fact that they can become instruments of social awareness during the electoral campaign. We ask them that instead of dancing and singing during their political sorties, they could use the opportunity to highlight important issues such as environmental protection and the promotion of human rights,” Fr. Edu Gariguez of NASSA/Caritas Filipinas said.
Citing the Pope’s latest encyclical Laudato Si, Gariguez explained that no other than Pope Francis underscored the necessity to talk about environmental and social justice if we are really concerned with the future of the human race.
As the elections seems to be a contest on who is more concerned of the people, candidates must be ready to listen or even echo both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.


Kidapawan Violence and electoral gimmickry

“What we are seeing so far for the 2016 electoral campaign is the usual circus. They can do better than this,” said Garingan.

He shared that candidates only talk about the environment and human rights to ride on current controversies and to get votes instead of raising the conversations and sharing their comprehensive platforms on these important things.

One of speakers also weighed in on the April 1 incident in Kidapawan, North Cotabato where El Nino-affected farmers protesting the lack of government support and relief action were violently dispersed by state forces.

“At least three people died and more than a hundred were injured, yet the best we got from most candidates is either finger-pointing on who’s to blame or them riding on the issue to popularize themselves,” Rene Pamplona of the Social Action Center of Marbel shared what happened on Kidapawan clash as an example.

He said that there had been almost zero statement that talks about a clear plan how to improve the delivery of social services to El Nino-affected farmers and how to prevent such widespread hunger to happen again.

“On the part of government, nothing is coming out but false solutions that, in our view, will just ultimately fail. We must remember that this dry spell is not only an issue in Kidapawan and not even just in Mindanao but a national issue. Latest data shows that about Php6 Billion-worth of crops were destroyed, in the first quarter of 2016 alone, because of the drought,” he furthered.

Pamplona, who is the Justice and Peace Desk Coordinator of SAC-Marbel furthered that with climate change, slow onset impacts such as El Nino are bound to happen again and save for a few progressive and sincere individuals and groups, the things our candidates offer so far are photo-ops and blame games.

“Our dream is that our candidates’ electoral agenda must reflect a concrete program of action towards the resolution of problems such as this,” he said.


Youth voice

Leunisse Crisostomo, a youth leader from the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) expressed disgust on the patterns of the 2016 electoral campaign.

“With the things that are happening, we cannot imagine where this will all put us. Without the decisive action of candidates to talk about the important issues, like taking care of Mother Nature and ensuring the people’s enjoyment of their human rights, the future for the younger generations seems bleak,” she said.

All is not hopeless for Crisostomo, however, as she calls on voters to “take an informed decision and never be swayed by the cheap gimmickry” of the candidates.

“As we are asking for the best and most comprehensive platforms from our candidates, we, the voters, should also acknowledge that we have the responsibility to be discerning enough to come up with the right decision come May 9,” she said.

Power of Purple
Yolanda Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI, offered their Power of Purple campaign to aid voters to arrive at an informed decision.
“The Power of Purple is a humble initiative by our network to inform the public of the relevant track records, past and on-going projects/programs, and electoral platforms of our candidates for national elective positions. We have allotted some pages on our website that will present these facts in a simple, easy-to-understand, and user-friendly format,” she explained.
The Power of Purple campaign as an information platform also rates the candidates according to PMPI’s 6 thematic concerns/advocacies — climate change and disaster risk reduction, peace and human rights, mining issues, environment, sustainable agriculture, and good governance.
Esguerra also mentioned that the Power of Purple campaign can be accessed through www.pmpi.org.ph, PMPI’s official website. She was, however, quick to add that PMPI will not endorse any candidate.


Voters’ Manifesto

Garingan and Fr. Alex Galo of the Diocese of Borongan also presented a voters’ manifesto that encapsulates the calls of the organizations present.

“Our message to our fellow voters is this: Before we vote on May 9, let us think of the environment and our human rights; think of the forests, the mountains, the rivers, and the seas; think of our farms, our food, our livelihood, and our health; think of how this elections can mean a future that is both peaceful and bright for all of us,” Garingan concluded

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