Surely, a presidentiable’s stand on population control, which is the sore point in the Reproductive Health Bill’s content, does not define his character or ability to lead.
But by putting too much emphasis on the issue, the Church and pro-life groups have tended to downplay the other important concerns of governance that presidential hopefuls need to have a stand on.
Surely, a president can’t just pay lip-service to the Church’s cause against population control and then commit other objectionable acts like raiding the government coffers or abusing people’s rights.
Still, it would be good for the faithful if the Catholic Church hierarchy would come up with holistic and objective criteria to guide them in assessing the qualifications of candidates instead of giving them narrow-minded views.
The Church tries to be very consistent with its teachings. It will mobilize her faithful against what ills persons and society and will work toward what are true and good. There is no compromise. The Church in her pastoral duty will guide the faithful toward their final end -- Heaven -- even as the faithful are still in this world. Elections and the faithful's participation in the political arena are only two of the many concerns for the Church. One who says that the Church only looks at a political candidate (who has signed up though, they have just signified their intent to run, right?) in his support or rejection of the RH bill is not being truthful or simply ignorant.
Why do I say this? The CBCP has given us pointers in the past. The CBCP wrote a pastoral letter in 2004 that I reprint in toto below that already gives us the points to consider in choosing a candidate (boldface mine):
NATION-BUILDING THROUGH ELECTIONS
(Pastoral Statement on Elections 2004)
Elections are a crucial moment in our continuing task of nation-building. They are a “timely opportunity to transform society by electing wise, capable and upright leaders.” (Oratio imperata) It is a time when we can institutionalize further People Power through the informed and responsible choice of local and national leaders by millions of Filipinos here and abroad.
Despite disturbing talk of massive frauds and unconstitutional measures being contemplated by various political groupings, we assert once more that the vigilance and concerted action of ordinary citizens would be the best guarantee of maintaining honest, orderly and peaceful elections. Are we ready to defend our democratic way of life through the constitutional process and the rule of law?
It is in this light that we emphasize the importance of safeguarding the election process. We highly endorse citizens’ groups such as PPCRV, NAMFREL, and others to work closely with COMELEC, the military and PNP and public school teachers in maintaining a neutral and non-partisan role in ensuring the electoral process. We also note that the voters’ list in many places has not yet been made available by COMELEC and neither has the supply of indelible ink been assured. Will this problem be solved before election?
The electoral process is also a time when we can state that we cannot be neutral against corruption in its various forms, e.g. vote-buying and vote-selling, taxation by the NPA of political candidates and ordinary citizens, misuse of public funds, etc. This fight against corruption is a gospel imperative.
Even as we focus on election-day itself, we also remind voters of their right and duty before elections to discern and choose candidates based on certain criteria. At least three basic criteria are to be considered:
First, is the candidate a person of competence, i.e. in terms of leadership experience, professional qualifications, and record of governance? Second, is the candidate a person of conscience, i.e. with personal integrity, transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights? And third, is the candidate a person of commitment to a vision and program of action on key issues such as family and life, environment, illegal drugs and gambling, justice, peace and order, poverty alleviation, education, etc.?
Beyond elections, there is the greater challenge for all citizens: to continue monitoring winning candidates in order to ensure transparency, accountability and people empowerment for good governance. We have been praying for clean elections; we continue to pray and work for reconciliation and the solidarity that is essential to nation-building.
“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all.” (Gal 6:9-10).
On the editorial's take on a "better approach", the Church may change its way of doing things, but she will never compromise doctrine with people surveys. It is just not her style.
To understand some more why the Church is concerned about the RH bill and what it will do to the moral life of the faithful, it would be for good reading this and this.