59: The Philippine election: Why the Church lost
59: The Philippine election: Why the Church lost

59: The Philippine election: Why the Church lost

Last week’s post mentioned that despite the Church’s active involvement in the 2022 presidential elections in the Philippines, Maria Robredo, the Church’s preferred candidate, lost by a wide margin to Bongbong Marcos.

The inevitable questions are why and how did this happen?

First, the growing resentment of the Church’s past evils, including abuses, has largely undermined the Catholic Church’s moral authority and global influence. People simply do not want the Church to dictate their lives. Many Filipinos argue that the Church is meddling too much in Filipino politics. It seems that the Church does not realise that a growing number no longer see it as the moral conscience of the nation. The era of Cardinal Sin has clearly passed.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines opposed the Reproductive Health Act of 2012 to provide universal access to contraceptives, maternal care, and sexual education because of certain areas which undermined the Church’s moral doctrine; yet it was passed and signed into law. Survey reports show that about 70 percent of Filipinos support the law.

Second, the former president, Rodrigo Durtete, had already set the ball rolling with his strong opposition to the Catholic Church. Rodrigo is a baptised Catholic, but his spiritual adviser is Apollo Quiboloy, the leader of the Pentecostal Church ‘The Kingdom of Jesus Christ’.

During the 2016 presidential election campaign period, Durtete joked about raping an Australian missionary woman who was raped and killed in a prison riot in 1989. He publicly called Pope Francis a “son of a whore” for causing traffic jams during his 2015 visit to the country. He later said he would go to the Vatican to apologise privately to the Pope.

When bishops condemned his vulgarity against the Pope, he responded: “You sons of whores, aren’t you ashamed? You ask so many favours, even from me…You know the most hypocritical institution? The Catholic church”. He argued that the Church opposed his election but his landslide victory served as a referendum against the Church[1]. Until he left office in June 2022, he continued to respond to bishops and priests in like manner whenever they opposed his policies, especially his brutal war on drugs.

Third, the Catholic Church is losing members to the Pentecostal Churches who are seriously competing with the Catholic Church for influence. These Churches fully supported Bongbong. They also supported the past president, Rodrigo Durtete. Sara Durtete, Rodrigo’s daughter, was the running-mate of Bongbong and is now the Vice President of the Philippines.

Moreover, the Pentecostal Churches have a large online presence. During the time of the former dictator in 1986, Catholic media reached out to more people than they do today. It is interesting to note that SMNI, a TV station owned by the “Kingdom of Jesus Christ” hosted the only presidential debate for the 2022 presidential elections. The founder is Rodrigo Durtete’s spiritual adviser and his Church endorsed Bongbong’s presidential bid. 

Fourth, Bongbong launched a massive online campaign targeting the youth, sometimes with misinformation. Statistics show that most of the voters were young people who were not born or were too little when Ferdinand Marcos ruled and the Philippines enjoyed relative prosperity. Bongbong campaigned that if his father had been left to follow through with his reforms, the Philippines would have been like Singapore. Of course, with unemployment and poverty, young people are keen for a change to better their future.

Commenting on the Church’s diminishing power in the Philippines, Jayeel Cornelio affirms:

“History can teach a lesson. Maybe the national stage isn’t where they should be concentrating now and should return to the community level. A big majority of Filipinos, most of whom are Catholic, voted for Bongbong. All the pontification fell on deaf ears”[2].

We continue next week.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/23/philippines-leader-duterte-calls-catholic-bishops-sons-of-whores

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-06-29/bongbong-marcos-and-the-waning-clout-of-catholicism-in-the-philippines

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