MANILA, OCTOBER 15, 2003  (STAR) By Jose Aravilla  - Incoming Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales will not endorse any candidate in next year’s presidential election, he said yesterday, but bared his criteria on who Filipinos should vote for.

The next president of the Philippines should not be too nationalistic, a champion of the poor, has a good track record and, above all, moral and a firm believer in God, Rosales said.

Rosales said he expects politicians to make a beeline to him to get his endorsement as the election fever heats up, the same way politicians sought the endorsement of his predecessor, Jaime Cardinal Sin, in past elections.

"But you can be sure, I will never, never endorse a particular candidate," Rosales told a press conference at his archdiocese in Lipa City, Batangas.

"I will endorse qualities and traits and characteristics that can be found in a good leader."

The new president "must be a man who believes in God, a man with background to achieve or track record within the ambit of morality, and compassionate to the poor," Rosales said.

Despite its strong political influence, the Catholic Church maintains it does not intervene in the affairs of state and does not endorse candidates in elections. It, however, has given criteria on who to vote for in past elections.

In the 1998 elections, the Catholic Church campaigned against deposed President Joseph Estrada because of his image as gambler, drunk and womanizer.

Rosales, 71, replaces Sin on Nov. 21. Sin reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 last Aug. 30.

A search for his replacement became urgent in March when he suffered a seizure after holding Mass at his Villa San Miguel residence on Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City.

Sin is considered the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, which counts about 80 percent of the country’s 80 million people.

Despite the separation of Church and State, Sin has wielded a huge political influence. Top politicians have lined up at his residence to seek his endorsement during elections.

Sin was sometimes criticized as a meddler in politics, opposing government policies — such as promoting artificial birth control — if viewed as contrary to Roman Catholic Church beliefs.

Under Sin’s leadership, the Catholic Church has opposed calls to change the Constitution, saying it could endanger provisions safeguarding the nation from the rise of dictatorships.

In 1986, Sin rallied Filipinos to a peaceful "people power" revolt that deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos over alleged corruption and human rights violations.

The largely peaceful revolt became a harbinger of change in authoritarian regimes worldwide. Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.

The feat was repeated 15 years later in 2001, when graft-tainted Estrada was forced to give up the presidency over alleged corruption and misrule. Estrada, detained in a Quezon City military hospital while being tried for plunder, has denied any wrongdoing.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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