MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Philippine church officials surveyed five presidential candidates to see who were the best servant-leaders, a move designed to help voters.
Father Anton Pascual, president of Radio Veritas, the Philippines’ largest Catholic radio network, said the yes or no questions were based on the concept of a “leader as servant,” a concept developed in the United States.
“These traits exhibit family values,” said Father Pascual. “Even Pope Francis came out with the new encyclical, ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ focusing on the importance of the family as the core foundation of building life and love … so to voters… let’s look at which of these candidates are truly pro-family and show family values.”
The face-to-face survey asked 1,200 registered Filipino voters — with no consideration for their religion — whether each candidate showed the following qualities: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building community.
Grace Poe, a junior senator, got the majority of yes responses in nine out of the 10 qualities. In popularity surveys, the 47-year old has consistently placed in the top two. Among the five candidates, Poe got the least number of yes answers on the question of whether voters thought she had enough knowledge and experience for the job.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, 70, placed second, receiving a significant number of yes answers in five of the 10 servant-leader traits.
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, head of the Philippine bishops’ Commission on the Laity, pointed out that all of the candidates scored below 75 percent when it came to overall servant-leadership qualities.
“That’s sad … because in our school year 75 percent is passing and 59 percent (what Poe got as the top candidate in the survey) would mean failing,” said Bishop Pabillo. “Next Miriam Santiago got 51 percent … That means that if we apply these 10 characteristics to these candidates, their ratings are pretty low.”
Divine Word Brother Clifford Sorita, a consultant who administered the survey, told Catholic News Service he was “generally surprised” by the results. He pointed out that Defensor-Santiago has been polling last in popularity surveys.
“It does not follow the normative results that are being released now in media, which follow the different standings of the candidates … Here’s my realization: If you partner the survey with a guided process, like in this case we guided them (through) the different traits, I believe it serves like a voters’ education for the respondents, and they would then evaluate them properly and the choice would come out.”
Vice President Jejomar Binay, 73, who has consistently placed among the top three in popularity surveys, scored the lowest (42 percent) in exhibiting overall servant-leadership qualities. Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II both showed 44 percent of overall servant-leadership qualities.
Church officials emphasized that the survey results do not signify any endorsement of the church. They also reminded the public that the church always pushes for Catholics to vote their consciences and pray over their choices for leader.
During an April 20 briefing, retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches said the survey could help voters, but it might be hard “because they already have a mindset. … They are not looking for who is a servant-leader.”
Bishop Bacani said he hoped voters would look beyond how well a candidate speaks, what he or she promises or what part of the country they are from and instead have better awareness about their character and know what kind of leader they want.
“Christ is a servant-leader, first and foremost, a servant of God and consequently a servant of the people,” said Bishop Bacani. “And so citizens should look at whether a (candidate) has godly principles and if they assert them.”