Local News: Team Buhay-Team Patay List, Church Says Tarpaulins to Stay Until Election Day
The re-sized tarpaulins bearing the list of senatorial candidates categorized as "Team Buhay" and "Team Patay" will not be removed on the facade of the San Sebastian Cathedral despite the controversy; on the contrary, it will stay there until May 13, or election day.
Very Rev. Fr. Felix Pasquin, rector and vicar forane of the San Sebastian Cathedral, stressed that they have no plans of removing the controversial tarpaulins, because the Church insists that these are not campaign materials.
"The main message of the Diocese of Bacolod (for posting the tarpaulin) is not really about the candidates in the May 2013 elections but about the rejection of the RH (Reproductive Health) Law, a piece of legislation which the Diocese finds anti-life, anti-marriage, anti-family and inimical to the future of the nation," he said.
Pasquin said the only violation cited by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Bacolod with regards to the tarpaulin is that it was "oversized." Therefore they have cut the tarpaulin, originally measuring 6 feet by 10 feet, into two, to conform to the 2 feet by 3 feet requirement of the Comelec on large posters.
There are now two tarpaulins on the same spot where the original one hung, one bearing "Team Buhay" and another bearing "Team Patay" list of senatorial candidates, he explained.
Besides, Pasquin added, "the hanging of tarpaulin in our own private property should be covered by a broader constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression and conscience, and not by the limited rules and regulations of the Comelec."
Pasquin said their lawyer had written the Comelec Legal Department in Manila to ask for a definitive ruling on campaign materials. Pending the Comelec reply and the availment of legal remedies available to the Diocese, the tarpaulins should be allowed to remain on the Church facade, he claimed.
Last Thursday, a day before the Team PNoy sortie in Bacolod, and three other cities in Negros Occidental, the Diocese had posted a huge tarpaulin on the facade of San Sebastian Cathedral bearing the list of senatorial aspirants categorized as "Team Buhay" and "Team Patay."
Under "Team Patay," considered as pro-RH, were the names of Team PNoy candidates Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Sen. Loren Legarda, Sen. Francis Escudero, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara and former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros.
Cagayan Rep. Juan Ponce "Jack" Enrile Jr. of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño were also on the "Team Patay" list.
"Team Buhay," considered anti-RH, on the other hand, are Team PNoy candidates Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III and former Las Piñas City Rep. Cynthia Villar. UNA candidates San Juan City Rep. JV Ejercito Estrada, Zambales Rep. Milagros "Mitos" Magsaysay, and Sen. Gregorio Honasan are also on "Team Buhay."
The list was supposedly a guide for voters in the upcoming May elections.
In a statement on Feb. 21, Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra said, "We call on the faithful to support those who are pro-life," adding that the diocese has declared RH Law as contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Comelec provincial election supervisor Wil Arceño said he has instructed Comelec Bacolod election registrar Mavil Majarucon-Sia to immediately inform the Diocese that the "controversial poster" violates election laws.
Arceño stressed that they respect the church on its advocacy, however, he pointed out that the Commission cannot tolerate the poster because it is oversized.
Being a campaign poster, he stressed, the controversial tarpaulin should conform to the prescribed size for a campaign material. He cited Comelec Resolution 9615, stating that "posters of any material should not be bigger than 2 feet by 3 feet."
Last Friday, Sia had written to Navarra reminding the Church on the supposed violation of campaign materials, but that the violation was only on the size of the poster, Pasquin said.
Pasquin added that they will consider the reminder of the Comelec to change the size of the poster, but they do not agree on the classification by Comelec that such poster is considered as campaign material.
He said the posting of tarpaulin was only the consequence of a major campaign against the RH Law because the Church has a moral obligation to teach and guide its people on certain issues.
Pasquin also denied insinuations that they had sabotaged the political campaign rally of Team PNoy. The facade of the cathedral is fronting the Bacolod public plaza where the Team PNoy rally was held last Friday.
Pasquin explained that it was purely coincidental that the activity of the Diocese was conducted when the political rally of the Team was underway PNoy.
He said February 22 was the last day of the observance of the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter or the tribute to the office of the Roman Catholic Pope wherein all churches around the world held concelebrated Masses for Pope Benedict XVI, who had announced his resignation.
He said that the observance started last February 20 and culminated last Friday during which Navarra led the holding of the concelebrated Mass.
Pasquin added that the Diocese of Bacolod is also issuing a reminder to Comelec Bacolod that one-half of the public plaza is a property of the Church, therefore it should also ask permission from the Church to use it as a common campaign poster area.
"The Comelec has in the past, freely and without permission, used the northern portion of the Bacolod public plaza as a common poster area, without prior permission for the said property," Pasquin said.
Meanwhile, Pasquin said the Church continues to bring the matter to the pulpit by conducting a forum on RH Law every Saturday morning and afternoon.
Dubbed "Crusade for Life," the forum for all its lay people and ministries will tackle issues that attack God’s teaching on life, marriage and family, and will culminate with a "mammoth rally" sometime in April.* (DBDangcalan)