Cardinal Tagle tells Poe, Binay, Roxas: 'Raise the bar in campaigning'

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Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle meets the top three potential presidential candidates together in his Manila residence on Monday evening.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — For the first time together, the top three possible presidential contenders met and talked to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle on Monday evening (September 7) in his residence in Manila.

In attendance were Sen. Grace Poe, Interior Secretary and Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Mar Roxas, and Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Sources within the politicians' camps said the cardinal called for the meeting.

Organized by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), chairman Henrietta "Tita" de Villa, who was also former Philippine ambassador to the Vatican, welcomed the officials at the cardinal's residence.

“It was just plain moment, providing them with some kind of spiritual rest, spiritual openness,” De Villa added.

She said the affair was informal and that there was no talk of politics.

"There was no sharing of platforms, what kind of government you are going to offer, no,” De Villa said.

Awkward moment

Tagle came in a little late for the dinner, leaving the three presidential contenders together waiting for the Catholic leader who came from a mass in Makati City.

According to some of the staff of the politicians, there was an awkward moment at first when the three were facing each other at the same table while waiting for the cardinal.

But the awkward moment turned "friendly" when the three officials had the chance to talk to each other about many things including traffic.

“They talked about traffic, that it’s getting better... things like that,” De Villa said. “It was very friendly.”

Tagle emphasizes “servant leadership”

In his reflection, Tagle talked about John 13, verses from the Bible that demonstrated Jesus’ leadership styles and practices.

“To be a servant, you must serve first,” De Villa quoted Tagle as saying.

According to De Villa, the cardinal also talked about the washing of the feet.

The cardinal emphasized that leaders are expected to serve others first instead of being served by the people.

Raise the bar in campaigning

Despite de Villa insisting that the meeting was purely an “ordinary evening prayer,” she admitted that Tagle asked the top three presidential aspirants to “raise the bar in political campaigning.”

“We prayed together. The one who led us in prayer was the deacon, not the cardinal. Cardinal was one reading with us,” she disclosed.

De Villa also said that Tagle reminded Poe, Binay, and Roxas not to lose their friendship especially when the electoral race heats up.

In the past few months, Binay, Roxas, and Poe have been doing their rounds across the country, visiting municipalities, cities, and provinces to convey what seem to be their platforms of government.

Binay has always maintained that there’s nothing wrong with what he is and the others are doing.

Roxas, on the other hand, whose resignation as Interior Secretary has not been accepted by the President, has been continuously doing trips, giving municipalities, vehicles and services that barangays can use.

Poe, meanwhile, has yet to formally declare her candidacy.

CNN Philippines’ David Santos contributed to this report.