Priest is presidential candidate

16 April 2009

by Vincent McKee

Angelic looks: a girl dressed as an angel prays during an Easter service at a Roman Catholic church in Manila on Easter Day PA

Angelic looks: a girl dressed as an angel prays during an Easter service at a Roman Catholic church in Manila on Easter Day PA

A ROMAN CATHOLIC priest, Fr Eddie Panlilio, has announced that he will seek the presidency in gov­ern­mental elections in the Philip­pines, scheduled for May 2010. He is currently on leave from his pastoral office while exercising the govern­or­ship of Pampanga (the home prov­ince of his rival, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo).

Fr Panlilio, who was elected in 2007 on a platform of waging war on corruption, has frequently accused the President of protecting illegal gambling interests and those of foreign mining companies, and has promised to bring charges against Mrs Arroyo for human-rights abuses and corruption. “She must face justice,” he told a news conference in Manila.

The priest’s candidacy has been welcomed by various RC and Protestant civil society groups, who have delighted in his high-profile battles against corruption. He has also been endorsed by over 40 per cent of the Philippines electorate in a snap polling survey.

The Roman Catholic hierarchy, however, are less enthusiastic, saying that the constitutional separation of Church and State may be jeopardised by the election of a clerical President.

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Most Revd Angel Lagdameo, warned: “If Gover­nor Panlilio runs for the Presidency, in view of the separation of Church and State, it is best for him to seek dispensation from the priesthood.”

There is gathering momentum for Fr Panlilio to name as his Vice-Presidential running-mate Edward Villueneva (nicknamed Br Eddie), head of the four-million-strong Protestant Evangelical “Jesus is Lord” movement, who won more than 5.5 million votes when challenging Mrs Arroyo in the 2004 Presidential election.

A Fr Eddie/Br Eddie Catholic/Protestant dream ticket, it is sug­gested, would have widespread appeal to voters.

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