In cathedrals around the country, clergymen hung red-and-black banners asking the faithful to vote for legislative candidates who oppose the Reproductive Health Law, which they view as a first step towards legalizing abortion. These candidates comprised what some bishops and priests dubbed "Team Life" while those who favored the law were branded by conservative Catholics as “Team Death.”

But many “Team Death” candidates triumphed and in the aftermath of the voting, Ramon Arguelles, the archbishop of the city of Lipa, told reporters: “I am not happy.”

A growing number of Filipino Catholics apparently feel the same way about their church. Although the Philippines remains the third-largest Roman Catholic country in the world after Brazil and Mexico, experts say that the influence of church leaders has been steadily declining as Filipinos disregard Catholic doctrine or, in some cases, find other faiths.

Many people disagree with the church’s conservative stance on social issues and some have become disillusioned by the Vatican’s slow response to the church sexual abuse scandals. Mirroring so-called “de-churchification” in other predominantly Catholic countries, a recent survey showed that only 37 percent of Filipino Catholics go to Mass compared to 66 percent in 1991.