Ad Limina visit after midterm elections
The mid-term elections was done. The votes had been canvassed. The official results had been released. In the local level, the result was immediately known. The unpredictable happened in the local election. Almost all the well-known family dynasties had fallen. The neophytes and the amateur in politics won over them. It only means that the Filipinos reject political dynasty. Thus, the Senate must think twice before it adopts the House of Representatives decision allowing the coming back of political dynasties which the 1987 Philippine Constitution prohibits. It is the end of the road for old families who had been lording over the local scenes. We hope and pray that these new blood will not disappoint their constituents and they would do their best to fulfill their election promises, to achieve the real change for the better.
On the other hand, most of the voters were disappointed with the result in the national level. They suspected that their votes were not counted despite the audit voter’s receipt that was released by the vote counting machine (VCM). They fear that the VCMs were manipulated. Let us pray that the senators-elect would not be rubber-stamp senators, as many said. Let us pray that we will have an independent and thinking Senate.
Such fear by the voters might have been brought about by some perceived anomalies which the Comelec must explain and which Congress must investigate. As PPCRV volunteer in charge of legal assistance, I personally witnessed the following: (1) Dead persons are still in the registered voters list. (2) Many persons were disenfranchised, their name was not in the voters list despite the fact that they voted during the last two elections – 2016 Presidential and 2018 Barangay Elections. The voter’s name will be deleted from the voters’ list if they failed to vote in the last two elections. (3) There are new voters whose name are not in the voters’ list. Does it mean the 2.5 million new voters were disenfranchised? (4) Voters had to queue or stay in line for more than one hour and suffer the heat of summer before they can vote. Most of them went home and did not care to come back and vote. (5) Many polling places/precincts were merged in one Cluster, what use to be 200 voters only in one precinct becomes more than 1,000 in a Cluster, thus, the very slow process of voting in a small and hot room. (6) The Election Board was very slow in verifying the identity of the voters. (7) Lack of marking pens to shade the ballots caused too much delay in the voting process. I voted in the Cluster where there were only 6 marking pens for 12 voters. We have to wait for a voter to finish shading his ballot before we can shade our ballot. (8) Some of the marking pens blot causing smudges on the ballot and once stained, the VCM would not accept the ballot and the vote not counted. (9) The VCM heat easily, despite the electric fan focused on it, thus causing the VCM to slow down in accepting ballots fed to it. (10) The most controversial is, the glitches hit 961 of 85,000 VCMs, with 1,665 secure digital or SD cards corrupted. (11) The worst, how can the Comelec explain the 7 hours break in the transmission from the transparency servers that fed the unofficial election results to mass media and the public.
The Philstar reported that, “Information technology experts working with the Comelec have also alerted the public to the risks in the use of a so-called meet-me room during the vote, which the Comelec says was meant mainly to prevent the system from being overwhelmed. The IT experts warn that the meet-me room is not a passive temporary data storage mechanism, but one that allows the election results to be actively intercepted and digitally stored somewhere while being transmitted from the VCMs in the polling precincts to the vote canvassing centers. These glitches happened in the past elections. The Comelec should, by now, has available means to solve these problems. To avoid doubts, the Comelec must ensure a credible and honest election. Comelec must be beyond suspicions and partisanship.
The first group of 30 archbishops/bishops of Luzon went to Rome for their Ad Limina Apostolorum Visit/Meeting with Pope Francis. The Ad Limina visit is usually held every 5 years during which the archbishops/bishops report to the Pope about their respective archdiocese/diocese pastoral projects, needs, etc. The dicasteries discuss the local issues with them. Due to the big number of Luzon bishops, the Archdiocese of Lipa and Nueva Caceres, were separated and will join the Visayas and Mindanao Groups.
I have the gut feel that Pope Francis would personally talk to Bishop Pablo Virgilio “Ambo” David and would assure him of his prayers for the bishop for what he is going through in shepherding his flock. I felt happy to see that our bishop is seated next to Pope Francis. Bishop Ambo himself mentioned in his social media account that he was surprised that the Prefect of the Papal Household seated him “right next to the Holy Father, on his left.” Bishop Ambo narrated that the last time he was in an Ad Limina visit, “we were positioned in rows facing the Pope (20 feet away) according to the ranks in the hierarchy.” He said he was at the very rare end because he was a newly-ordained auxiliary bishop at that time. This time “we were seated around him in a circle and made to feel more like brother bishops, than as subjects before the king. He allowed us to address him freely without the aid of a microphone.” Instead of asking question, Bishop Ambo told Pope Francis that he had no question and that he just wanted to ask for his prayers. Bishop Ambo continued “He looked into my eyes as I spoke. I was surprised when he interrupted me in the middle of my sentence and said ‘I want you to know that I know your situation. I know what you are going through. I am praying for you. Please continue.” Bishop Ambo added that on their way out, Pope Francis held his arm and said “Wait. Please let me give you a special blessing. I want you to know I am with you as you face trials in your ministry in your diocese.” The Pope prayed over and blessed him, “Then he pulled me to himself to give me a warm paternal embrace, pressing his head against mine, and brushing his hand gently on my back as he whispered into my ears, ‘Courage!’ My heart melted after that. I just said ‘Thank you, Holy Father.”
Thank you very much Pope Francis for praying over Bishop Ambo and for your assurance and fatherly gesture. We are strengthened that we have you in our midst in in praying for the safety of our bishop. May our Lord Jesus Christ continue to be in our hearts and in the hearts of every Filipino, so that unity and peace will reign within us.
Bishop Ambo gifted Pope Francis with the Spanish translation of his book “The Gospel of Love According to Juan/a” while Fr. James Del Rosario, Parish Priest of Sto. Nińo de Pasion, Navotas City, gave the Pope the image of the patron saint of his parish and the scrap book containing pictures of pastoral works in the parish and messages of children to Pope Francis.