Bishops to join pre-poll summit

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Malacañang has secured the commitment of all sectors, including the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, to attend today’s preparatory meeting for the anti-poll fraud summit proposed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“We are encouraged by the broad representation confirmed for the summit planning meeting. With concerted efforts from all sides, the summit can do much good for the elections,” Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo said yesterday.

Sister Roseanne Mallilin of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action will attend the three-hour meeting at Barbara’s Restaurant in Intramuros, which is near the headquarters of the bishops’ group.

Saludo said Mallilin will be attending the summit as an observer for Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez who also heads the Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace.

“Maybe they have decided that they will play an observer role first. We are not discouraged by this because later, they might decide to take a more active role in the election summit,” the Palace official said.

Other religious groups that will attend the planning session are the National Council of Churches of the Philippines represented by Rev. Rey Cortes; Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches represented by Bishop Romy Corpuz and Rev. Jonelle Milan.

Saludo said as of yesterday afternoon, his office has yet to receive the names of the representatives of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, the citizens poll watch group newly accredited by the Commission of Elections, and the Ulama League of the Philippines.

The National Police and the Department of Education will also send representatives to give a briefing on their respective preparations for the deployment of personnel and material resources for the May 14 polls.

Jose Concepcion Sr., chairman of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, will also give a report on the organization’s concerns for the mid-term elections.

Participants to the administration- backed anti-poll fraud summit have been tasked to map out a national comprehensive plan to ensure clean elections in May.

“We have noted the statements made by various public figures regarding the proposed summit. We respect these perspectives, but will not publicly respond to them,” Saludo said.

Hours after Mrs. Arroyo made a public invitation to the summit last week, CBCP president Angel Lagdameo said the influential bishops are “wary and skeptical” of the proposed team-up.

“If all are committed to that [clean, orderly elections] it is not necessary to have a summit. Let us make the promise to God and with an honest conscience,” Lagdameo said.