The Leaderboard: José Serofia Palma

Who is he?

José Serofia Palma is the archbishop of Cebu, an ecclesiastical province of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. Pope Benedict XVI appointed and installed him to his post on January 13, 2011, replacing Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who was the archbishop for 29 years.

Prior to his post, Palma served as the archbishop of Palo in Leyte. He was ordained in 1976 after receiving a doctorate from Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

Archbishop José Serofia Palma of the Philippines. Source: Wikimedia user Arnold Carl F. Sancover, used under a creative commons license.

Why is he in the news?

Archbishop Palma is the current president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the official organization of the Catholic hierarchy in the country. The conference consists of 99 active and 32 honorary bishops and members. Since the passage of the high-profile Reproductive Health (RH) Law in December 2012, which was strongly opposed by the church, the CBCP is organizing to expose political candidates with positions that do not align with Catholic beliefs.

Palma oversaw a “red ribbon” campaign organized by the CBCP to challenge the RH Law in all parishes of the Archdiocese of Cebu. The conference released a voter’s education manual, which included “10 Commandments of Responsible Voting,” based on the church’s social teachings and advising the electorate not to choose corrupt political candidates.

What can we expect?

The CBCP is an influential religious institution consistently at the forefront of political issues. The organization publicly announced in its annual plenary on February 1 that it will demand transparency on controversial social issues, including divorce and same sex-marriage, from all politicians running in mid-term elections in May.

The influence of the Catholic Church in Philippine politics has waned in recent years, as evidenced by the passage of the RH Law. However, the CBCP has shown that the church will continue to play a significant role during the congressional election campaign season. As the top leaders of the church, Palma and the other bishops of the CBCP will strive to maintain the Catholic Church’s powerful role in the political discourse of the Philippines.

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