Philippine churches, buoyed by a yearly celebration of a National Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, are uniting to help ensure clean and honest elections in May - writes Maurice Malanes from Baguio City, Philippines, for Ecumenical News International (ENI).
"We had shown that we could unite in prayers. Now we could unite and act on something concrete such as the coming elections," the Rev David Tabooy of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines told ENI.
Tabooy's church was the host one the final events in the 27 January-3 February week of prayer for Christian unity in this northern Philippine mountain city where Roman Catholics, traditional Protestants and Evangelicals showed they could unite in prayer.
"Lifted by the recent weeklong ecumenical prayer, we, from the various churches, could help ensure what we call 'HOPE' or honest, orderly and peaceful elections," said Tabooy.
The yearly weeklong prayer for Christian unity has been prepared since 1968 by the Vatican and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and is observed traditionally in late January.
Tabooy said he met with other leaders and representatives of other churches to chart how they could educate voters in their parishes and local churches about the elections on 14 May 2007, when Filipinos will elect 12 senators, 212 lower house representatives, and hundreds of provincial governors and town mayors.
The Rev. Andres Cosalan of the Catholic Church said that the ecumenical group would also request candidates to sign a covenant in which they would pledge to help ensure honest and clean elections. "Candidates who win shall also pledge to become servant-leaders who must give primacy to the common good," he said.
In Manila, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines appealed to the Commission on Elections to be accredited as a "citizens' arm" to conduct a parallel poll count.
The "citizens' arm" will help "restore public trust in the electoral process", Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, the head of the Catholic bishops' National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace told a 6 February public hearing.
Alleged massive cheating, terror and violence had characterised past elections in this Southeast Asian country of 89 million, 81 percent of whom are Catholics.
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International - www.eni.ch  - is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]