TRANSFORMING ELECTION THROUGH A SOLIDARITY OF CONSCIENCES
I saw a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1)
Beloved People of God:
The May 10, 2010 election is upon us. We are inspired by this vision from the book of Revelation, a vision of things to come; an old order is passing away and something new is emerging. We are called to be a people of living faith and unwavering hope who see God’s hand in this watershed event and actively prepare for it.
The election falls in the Year of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary which asks the faithful to pray and to work for peace and for social transformation. This work calls us to infuse morality and spirituality in our politics and electoral process through lay involvement in non-partisan work, like voters’ education and poll automation, as well engage in principled partisan politics by running for office and participating in circles of discernment, and for men and women in uniform to keep the peace.
We thank God there is a growing number of individuals and groups in our country who are heeding the call to hopeful action, despite difficulties and challenges. They provide a glimpse of a new Philippines.
OUR SITUATION: A MIXED REALITY
Patronage politics continues unabated. Electoral laws go unheeded. Limits on campaign spending are violated. Illegal posters abound, disfiguring our environment. There are reports of vote buying, intimidation, and even violence through armed groups. Prices of votes have even gone up as voters demand higher prices or favors. All these require money and—alas!—many sources of funds are either illegal or have strings attached to them.
Many voters still go about haphazardly in forming their consciences. There is negative campaigning instead of debating on issues or platforms. Many voices—political advertisements, endorsers, media, surveys, misused cultural values, etc.—often stifle the voice of conscience. We bemoan these realities that dehumanize both voters and candidates.
Many individuals and groups are also stepping up to the challenge of ensuring honest, orderly, and peaceful elections, recognizing that credible automated election—regardless of who is chosen by the people—is essential to ensuring peace and order.
Still, certain fears remain. There is the fear of losing elections fueled by the desire to win at all cost. There is the fear of being cheated and the fear of relinquishing power. There is also the fear of failure of elections. Fear has a way of exaggerating itself especially when uncertainties remain and questions are unanswered.
SPACES OF HOPE:
Informal discussions, well-attended fora, and media-inspired voters’ engagement show the emergence of a vigorous democracy. In addition, discernment processes for forming the consciences of voters are being pilot tested. There is a growing consensus that being truly God-fearing is the fundamental leadership trait from which other qualities are strengthened and perfected. Recollections open to all candidates is another welcome development.
The faithful are not only involved in ensuring credible elections; they are also starting to be engaged in helping emerge credible candidates and discerning voters. There are on-going election efforts that are becoming less personality- and more platform-oriented.
There are many indications that men and women in the uniform are heeding the call to be extra-vigilant to bring about peaceful elections and not allow themselves to be used by politicians or ideological groups. The PNP has even issued clear ethical guidelines on conduct during elections to its rank and file.
Various sectors, in addition to the church network, conduct regular prayer vigils. We are a nation learning to pray and work for social transformation.
Voters: Let us choose the way of God during elections by choosing good and rejecting evil, even the lesser evil. Listening to one’s conscience is the starting point for infusing Christian morality and spirituality into the electoral process. Let circles of discernment multiply and continue to be guided and strengthened by the Church’s spiritual resources and ethical teachings, and let them share the fruits of their discernment. Let us not believe everything that we hear especially those that feed on our fears.
On Automated Elections: Let us be extra-vigilant and patient concerning the first-ever automated polls. We call on the Comelec to have concrete guidelines on handling post-election complaints and to work closely with other government and non-government agencies in ensuring honest, orderly, and credible elections.
Candidates: Be truly God-fearing and shun vote buying even if it costs you votes. Let your lives and track record convince voters. Be people of proven integrity and service. Be magnanimous winners and gracious losers, ready to work together for the common good after elections. Always uphold the constitution.
Peace Keepers: Leave a legacy of keeping the peace by continuing to serve the common good rather than vested interests. Be courageous.
A FINAL WORD:
Let us shun short-cuts during and after elections. They only lead to further misery and delay the process of political maturation. Let us give our “yes” to conscience, to constitution, and to Christ as we engage in a politics of patience, humility, and hope. Only a solidarity of consciences will enable us to see a “new heaven and a new earth”.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+ NEREO P. ODCHIMAR, D.D.
Bishop of Tandag
May 4, 2010
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