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Bishops tell voters:
Anybody but Erap
By Christine Herrera and Martin Marfil
Philippine Daily Inquirer

ANYBODY but Erap.

The Catholic bishops urged their flock to junk womanizers in today's presidential election, obviously alluding to Vice President Joseph Estrada.

In a pastoral letter issued on the eve of election day, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said voting for a womanizer would be dealing a ''death blow'' to democracy.

''Vote for persons who morally, intellectually and physically show themselves capable of inspiring the whole nation toward a hopeful future,'' the bishops said.

Estrada, standard-bearer of the opposition Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino, readily admits a history of womanizing and boozing.

Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., the administration standard-bearer, had challenged him to a debate on economic issues and a treadmill test to prove to the public who was fitter to become the
next President. Estrada refused, and instead dared De Venecia to a boxing match.

In a similar pitch, Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin yesterday sought to assure De Venecia that he could win in an honest election, and that Vice President Joseph Estrada could
even lose.

''If everybody is watching, no one will complain. Erap will be the one to complain because he is going to lose. He will be the one to complain,'' Sin told De Venecia who visited him together with
two supporters yesterday afternoon at Villa San Miguel in Mandaluyong City.

''We are preparing already so people will not believe that he really won . . . To the last limit of our capacity, we are trying to prepare the minds of the people so that they will not think there
was cheating because Erap lost,'' Sin added.

Estrada, who is leading by a wide margin in the surveys conducted by the Social Weather Stations, said ''only cheating will make me lose.''

Videotape of visit

De Venecia's visit to the Archbishop's Palace was video-taped by the Lakas camp and the 16-minute footage was shown to media minutes after it was taken.

Sin told De Venecia that Church people had been mobilized to prevent cheating, adding that they were also prepared to counter Estrada's belief that he would be cheated.

He also described De Venecia as ''the only man who knows so many things,'' and at one point, he even appeared jovial and told an aide to bring coffee for ''the new president.''

In the pastoral letter, the bishops urged Catholic voters to ''vote and protect the ballot, do not blow democracy and freedom.''

''The things that will yield the death blow to our democracy and freedom will be false principles, a disregard for the sacredness of the marriage vow and the obligations of family life and a
blindness to prevalent social injustices,'' they said.

'Extremely foolish'

The bishops warned that it would be ''extremely foolish'' for the people to cast the votes for candidates who may have ''won fame and fortune'' but give no promise of being the statesmen
the country would need.

Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, CBCP spokesperson, said a review of the history of Church's involvement in politics showed that while the bishops had never named specific candidates, they had
clearly expressed the qualities the people should look for in their future leaders.

Since 1951, Quitorio said, the bishops have been issuing guidelines for parishioners to consider every election.

''Unless evil men are excluded from office and good men placed in office, justice will not be done,'' the bishops said. ''If justice is not done, the whole aim and purpose of civil society is defeated, and our Republic brought to the brink of destruction.''

The bishops also asked voters to bring candles and flashlights in case of brownouts to prevent cheating.

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