IF you doubt your conscience, look for a giant tarpaulin.
In Bacolod, Roman Catholics who might be confused how to vote can check the oversized “kodigo (cheat list)” that diocesan officials have posted outside a local church.
Last Mar. 5, 2013, the Supreme Court (SC) stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from taking down the “Conscience Vote” tarpaulin, which the latter claims is violating the legal limitation on the size of election propaganda.
As reported in vote213.verafiles.org, the tarpaulin measures 6 by 10 feet. The Fair Election Act allows only 2- by 3-feet campaign materials.
Looking at the Vera Files photo of Comelec workers holding a tablet-sized sheet (representing the legal size of campaign materials) against the “Conscience Vote” tarp that is nearly as towering and majestic as the limestone walls of the cathedral now serving as its backdrop, I can read very well how the church has simplified the time-consuming task of electing leaders to a short list that is much easier to memorize than an extended, ranting homily.
On the upper part of the tarp (cut in half by church workers after Comelec informed them of the violation) is a gigantic check mark beside a list of politicians and party list groups categorized as “(Anti-RH) Team Buhay”. It is colored a lurid red, which reminds me of blood—gushing at childbirth, when Christ was crucified, when the church cried out for heads to roll after the Reproductive Health Bill was passed into law.
On the lower part of the tarp is a big red cross beside a list labeled as “(Pro-RH) Team Patay”. These pols and groups may never break bread with monsignors, or at least pose with them for a photo op. This tarpaulin is in a shade of blue or purple, like the body of an aborted fetus. Abortion, promiscuity and the breakdown of family are the real agenda of the RH Law, claims the church.
Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra has defended the tarp as exercising the church’s freedom of expression. It jars to hear “freedom” being dropped in clerical defense, reminding me of poor Carlos Celdran, found guilty by a Manila court for practicing his freedom of expression to protest against the church’s RH Bill opposition during a mass and consequently “offending religious feelings”.
While I understand the Comelec’s intention to discourage the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) from posting similar election propaganda in other areas of the country, I think the Comelec should focus on other matters that affect more voters’ education and election conduct. The Catholic vote is a figment of the CBCP’s earnest belief in itself, not facts.
Propaganda, from the pulpit or elsewhere, works only with the myopic and the die-hard. Since voters who will follow their “conscience” (see “church”) are unlikely to get last-minute cold feet and critically examine candidates using the yardstick of governance, tarpaulins, right-, under- or over-sized, are waste.
Yet tarps are also friendly to ecology (less paper), eyes (no more spectacles or laser), ears (shorter homilies) and livelihood (whether Team Buhay wins or loses, hope the church donates the tarpaulins to be made into green bags and mats).
Live and let live, whether you’re “Buhay” or “Patay”.
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*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Mar. 10, 2013 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday main op-ed column