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Fearing ‘epal’ tag, senators to skip papal events

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 04:23 AM January 09, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–While eager to see Pope Francis up close, some senators are staying away from his events, lest they’ll be seen as “epal”—an opportunistic credit grabber or scene stealer.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has appealed to politicians not to use the papal visit as an opportunity to advance their interests ahead of the 2016 national elections.

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Tagle specifically warned against banners welcoming the Pope but featuring politicians for their personal gain.

cart0109Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III, wary of public criticism, summed up his colleagues’ sentiments when asked if he would attend any of the papal events: “No. I might be seen as epal.”

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Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV curtly said, “No, I won’t be attending any of his events.”

Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito and Alan Peter Cayetano are heeding the organizers’ call and even the Pope’s wishes that politicians stay out of his meetings with the poor.

I would like to but…

If he were given the opportunity to meet the Pope especially in his culminating Mass at Rizal Park, he’d grab the chance to do so as a Catholic, not as a public official, Ejercito said.

“Yes, I would have wanted to,” Ejercito said in a text message. “But if it would be better that politicians stay out of it, then I would be willing to sacrifice.”

Cayetano said he was deferring to the organizers’ appeal for politicians to “step aside,” unless formally invited to one of the events.

“If God gives us the chance to meet him, so be it. But we will not insert ourselves, in keeping with the call of the organizers. This is for the people and for the Pope,” he said.

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“Of course if there’s an invitation, who wouldn’t want to shake hands with, and see the Pope?” he added, but conceded that even the guest list in the Pope’s meeting with President Aquino in Malacañang was limited.

Besides, even the Pope had expressed the wish that VIPs stay out of the events, the majority leader said. “Unless invited, we will either stay away or be in the background.”

The Pope had relayed to Archbishop John Du of Palo that he wanted to break bread with the poor survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” the primary reason for his apostolic visit to the country, and stay away from the VIPs.

Du said: “He will be sitting side by side with poor people. Simple food will be served and there will be no VIPs.”

The Pope has a flurry of activities during his five-day visit, including a meeting with President Aquino in Malacañang, Holy Mass with the clergy and religious at Manila Cathedral, meeting with families at Mall of Asia, Mass at Yolanda-hit Tacloban City, lunch with typhoon survivors in Leyte province, meeting with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas, and Mass at Rizal Park.

The Pope will hold a Mass at Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport on Jan. 17 in Tacloban City, and then join survivors of Yolanda for lunch at the Archbishop’s Residence in Palo town, Leyte.

He is also scheduled to bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor, and then meet with priests, members of the religious community, seminarians, and families of the storm survivors at the Cathedral of Palo.

Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) left a wide swath of destruction in Eastern Visayas and some 7,000 people dead and missing in November 2013.

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TAGS: epal, Joseph Victor Ejercito and Alan Peter Cayetano, politicians, pope, Pope Francis, senators, Sotto, Trillanes
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