MANILA - Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Sunday slammed Beijing's expansion activities in the disputed South China Sea and "quietly tolerant" officials as he enjoined voters to choose leaders that will defend the Philippines' territorial sovereignty.
China recently confirmed that it installed missiles in the Spratly islands, a move which analysts said threatens international access to the strategic waterway.
Villegas said China's expansionism is only a few miles away from Pangasinan and that the province is now getting Chinese radio programs.
"Our barangay leaders who are quietly tolerant are harming our nation," Villegas said in a pastoral letter read at Mass services nationwide.
Given this situation, he said the public must observe solidarity when they elect new village and Sanggunian Kabataan officials on Monday.
"The principle of solidarity also mandates us to demand from our government to preserve our territorial sovereignty," he said.
REJECT VOTE BUYING, CHAMPION COMMON GOOD
Villegas, the former president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, also urged voters to choose new local officials that will fight "crimes against the poor."
"We must fight the crimes against the poor like the killing of the poor in the name of the drug war and the unabated rise in basic food commodities," he said.
He also told the faithful to reject vote-buying, which he dubbed as an "attack" on human dignity.
"When they offer you money, they are putting a price tag on you. Get mad!" he said.
The archbishop also called on voters to consider the common good in casting their vote.
"We are part of a bigger whole. Do not vote for your own sake. Vote thinking of the good of society. Remember those marginalized by previous leaders. Bayan muna bago ang sarili," read his pastoral letter.
APPEAL TO LEADERS
Villegas also appealed for elected officials to "respect the non-partisan nature of our barangays and to desist from using our barangay leaders as political wards."
At the same time, he asked village leaders that will be elected "not to allow themselves to be used as wards or armies of the higher ups in government."
"Tomorrow vote as a Filipino. Vote as a Catholic. Vote to restore all things in Christ," ended his pastoral letter.
Officials in some 42,000 barangays have overstayed since 2013 while youth council posts were left vacant since 2010 after several laws were passed to defer the local elections.
Monday's polls, which will be done through manual voting, will test the implementation of the anti-dynasty provision of the SK Reform Act for the first time since it was signed into law in 2016 by then-President Benigno Aquino III.