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Catholic bishops say Philippines cannot afford another fraud-tainted election

Catholic bishops say Philippines cannot afford another fraud-tainted election

Influential Catholic bishops said Sunday the country could no longer afford another election tainted by allegations of fraud and violence and called on Filipinos and church leaders to jointly wage a battle to ensure credible congressional and local polls in May.
Allegations that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo conspired with senior election, military and police officials to rig the 2004 elections have remained largely unresolved and continue to foster political wrangling, anti-government protests and rumors of a coup.
Arroyo, who has survived two impeachment attempts over the allegations, has repeatedly denied the accusations but has refused to answer them in detail.
"As a nation, we cannot afford yet another controversial electoral exercise that further aggravates social distrust and hopelessness," the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said in a statement, read by its president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo in a news conference.
"Many of our current political problems, which have hindered fuller economic development and social justice ... can be traced to unresolved questions concerning the conduct of past elections," according to the bishops' statement, which was also read in packed churches across the country _ Asia's largest predominantly Catholic nation.
The bishops called on Filipinos to fight apathy and hopelessness and organize themselves with church people "to help clean the dirt from our easily corrupted electoral process." They did not outline specific steps to combat the problem but the church has deployed volunteers in the past to help with security during the balloting and counting.
Filipinos would elect 12 senators, more than 200 House of Representatives members and nearly 17,500 governors, mayors and other local officials during the May 14 poll.
Analysts have said the elections were crucial because opposition groups could win enough House seats to impeach Arroyo over vote-rigging and corruption allegations and send her to trial in the Senate. Arroyo's House allies were able to use their overwhelming numbers to block the two impeachment bids against her.
There have also been concerns over possible bloodshed during the local elections, which traditionally have been marred by violence from armed groups controlled by politicians.
The fatal shooting of a pro-Arroyo lawmaker in a suburban Manila church compound last month and the escape of another from a car bombing in the capital have deepened those concerns. A third lawmaker has been targeted in an alleged assassination plot, officials say.
Authorities were investigating if the attacks and threat were linked to political feuds.
The bishops also issued a statement criticizing the response of the government and military to several recent killings of political activists.
"The government and the military's response to the shameful extra-judicial killings of unarmed crusaders for justice and equality is most unsatisfactory, their protestations of concern not too convincing," the bishops said.
They urged Filipinos to demand the government do more to stop the crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.
International and local human rights groups have condemned the killings, which have continued regardless. Arroyo has ordered an investigation into the deaths and said her government would never condone such acts.


Updated : 2021-04-14 19:30 GMT+08:00