Catholic priest Ronald Balase tweeted MAGNANAKAW (all caps for emphasis) in reply to a Twitter user who called men of the cloth crazy (u*ol) for calling on the faithful to shun liars and thieves in the May 9 elections. It's what the Bible has said for centuries, he said.
In one of the most divisive elections in recent years, some priests are trying to regain their political voice that was slowly muted since the 1986 People Power Revolt that ousted the dictatorship because the late strongman's son and namesake, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., is at the doorstep of Malacanang.
Balase, whose Twitter handle Pari Koy has some 21,000 followers, said hearing mass is a waste of time if the faithful would vote for candidates who break the Ten Commandments, especially those that matter in public office -- Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not lie. Thou shall not kill.
"Guilty ba ang kandidato mo?... Lakasan natin: HUWAG BOBOTO NG SINUNGALING, MAGNANAKAW AT TAX-EVADER!" Balase said in his tweet last April that got roughly 37,000 heart reactions.
You don't need to be religious to know it's wrong to side with those who break the laws of God, Balase told reportr. "Why, suddenly, did it become offensive?"
Such triggered reactions on social media show how disinformation has clouded what people learn from religion, that if left unchecked, could lead to moral decay, priests Mark Anthony Zarate and Myke Dacalos told reportr.
On Twitter, priests turn political
Balase, Zarate, and Dacalos are using social media to preach the word of God and the virtues of their preferred candidates. While the Catholic Church as an organization is non-partisan, these priests are also among 65.7 million registered voters on May 9.
"If I become neutral during these times, para bang I'm supporting the perpetrators, those who are spreading lies," said Zarate, who admitted to being publicly indifferent about social issues before the 2022 election season.
"How can we afford to be silent in this very stark reality na nagsasama mga mandurugas ng bansa?... Bakit ako nagpari kung papabayaan ko lang 'yung kawan ng Diyos na abusuhin?" said Dacalos, @popmonkph on social media.
Speaking out during this toxic campaign is difficult, "but it is the only expression of Christian faith. It is the proper expression of our love for Jesus," said Zarate.
Dacalos, who had been called "damaso", and "pedophile" online, can't help but ask: "Bakit parang sinasapian 'pag panahon ng eleksyon?"
"Ganito na ang inabot ng ating pag-uugali bilang isang mananampalataya, bilang isang tao. Ganun kabastos at ganun kababa na uri ng pananalita o pakikipagkapwa tao dahil lamang sa pagsasabi namin ng kung ano ang tama?" said Balase.
No to biblical revisionism
Men of the cloth cannot preach "alternative truths" to fit the narrative of those who are triggered by the Bible. After all, it's Ten Commandments, not Ten Suggestions, said Dacalos.
"Sino mag-aadjust, ang Panginoon, ang ebanghelyo?" Dacalos asked. "We cannot sacrifice the truth just because people will not feel comfortable with it. Nakakahiya naman sa mga propeta."
"Sumusunod lang kami doon, wala kaming choice, wala kaming option. Ito sabi ni Hesukristo e," Balase said.
If people are offended by what they say, maybe it's time to reflect on their biases, the priests said.
"You may be hurt, but we do not hate you. It's not negative campaigning. 'Pag tinamaan ka, bullseye," said Balase.
MORE ELECTION LIFE KIT:
How to vote as a Catholic
The three priests urged voters, especially the Catholic faithful, to think about these things before heading to the precincts:
Don't be a fanatic, said Dacalos. Your vote is not just for your own but for the country, especially those who are on the fringes of society, the priests said.
Check the candidates qualifications Are they honest? Are they inclusive, leaving no one behind? Will they serve themselves or will they put others first, like Christ the servant-leader?
Check their track record, too. Are they convicted of crimes? Have they stolen from the nation's coffers? If yes, have they asked for forgiveness and made restitution?
"'Wag tayo maging pabebeng Kristiyano, 'sige abusuhin mo pa ako, anyway mafo-forgive naman kita kasi Kristiyano.' 'Di 'yan pagiging Kristiyano, pagiging marupok 'yan," said Dacalos.
Go back to your core values. What are your dreams for yourself and your country? Even non-Christians' moral fiber is in pursuit of the truth, justice, and goodness, said Zarate. If your chosen candidates don't reflect these, it's time to reconsider, he said.
Pray you make the right choice. "Galaw-galaw naman d'yan ang mga konsensya n'yo", said Dacalos.
"Let us choose a candidate na dapat sana ay mag-embody ng pagmamahal sa bansa. Pagmamahal na nakikita sa gawa, at pagmamahal na napatunayan na at patuloy na pinapatunayan at pagmamahal na tunay na nagsasakripisyo sa atin," said Balase.