Since the start of the election period, Catholic Churches nationwide begin the Holy Mass every Sunday with a prayer for a safe, peaceful and honest balloting on May 9.
But that’s not all. Lay leaders also read a petition to the Lord and to the Blessed Virgin Mary for deliverance from lies, cheating and disinformation.
Catholic bishops were worried the political landscape would be shaped by propaganda, lies and untruth and that Filipinos would elect a leader who does not deserve to lead the country.
They were appalled by what they saw, read and heard on social media platforms and that many ordinary Filipinos believed in the lies about the past, such as claims painting the repressive Marcos regime as the golden age of the Philippines.
Sure, Marcos built magnificent edifices, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, but the money that went into these projects could have done much more if large chunks of the funds were not stolen and stashed in Swiss banks.
These are not myths. The Philippines got back more than $600 million from a bank in Switzerland. The Marcoses could not have amassed such fabulous wealth even if the dictator stayed in power for two decades.
The Supreme Court had ruled that the combined income of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos as public servants could not have accumulated such wealth.
Marcos died in 1989 and his heirs refused to pay billions of pesos in estate taxes, which the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) assessed to be at P23 billion, or 60 percent of an estimated P38 billion that the government had failed to confiscate or sequester.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the BIR found at least 11 Marcos properties, which were not confiscated, including a property in Olot town in Leyte.
The Marcos thievery shocked not only Filiipinos but people around the world, putting the dictator among the world’s plunderers, deposed leaders who had ruled impoverished African, Asian, Eastern European, and Latin American countries.
In the Philippines, the Marcos family had painstakingly seeded social media for years to change the historical narrative.
The family even infiltrated school textbooks to soften accounts about martial law and even demonize political opponents, particularly Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo.
In every pit stop to provinces she had visited during the last two months of the campaign, Robredo paid courtesy calls to Roman Catholic bishops, seeking help to counter massive disinformation affecting the elections.
Her opponents, particularly the campaign of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., saw the Catholic bishops’ involvement in efforts to counter disinformation as a political meddling, crossing the separation of Church and State boundaries.
Marcos spokesman, Lawyer Vic Rodriguez, said some priests were part of a hate campaign. He was worried the priests’ influence on the Catholic faithful could make a dent on the dictator’s son’s popularity and winnability in the elections.
It’s unimaginable how many devout Catholics, mostly senior citizens, could defy Church teaching and support Marcos, a candidate tainted by corruption and who had thrived on lies. He faked his educational attainment and grabbing credit for his accomplishments as a legislator.
Although in homilies during Sunday masses, priests do not mention Marcos as behind lies, untruths and disinformation, parishioners could discern who the priests were referring to.
In fairness, the priests are just doing their moral obligation to set the faithful on the right path, warning them of dangers of falling into the trap of disinformation.
Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the Church does not foment hatred.
“That’s unchristian,” he said in a statement. “The only enemy we are taught to renounce is Satan—who is the prince of lies and who alone is happy when social media are used to spread lies and disinformation.”
As shepherds to the flock, the bishops and priests have the moral obligation to warn against temptations and ways that could make them fall into sin.
Disinformation is evil. Untruths blur the sights of people, preventing them from seeing what is right. It distorts the truth.
The hate messages on social media directed at the rivals of Bongbong Marcos are so vicious and unchristian, which would put into question the faith of Marcos supporters who religious attend Sunday masses and pray the rosary.
Some social media users have the Virgin Mary as profile pictures and post Bible verses, but curse and threaten those who support other candidates.
It is so uncharacteristic to see Catholic faithful spew vitriol on social media against people who do not share their political beliefs.
If left unchecked, it could destroy the country. There is so much polarization and only the evil will benefit from the chaos, confusion, and infighting. Satan thrives in discord. That is what the Catholic priests are trying to prevent.
As shepherds, they have to answer to Jesus if the flock is led astray.
As Catholic faithful, the Holy Week offers a chance for them to reflect, discern, repent and return to the path of truth.
Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for the people to see the truth. Let us be enlightened against disinformation.