Friday, April 08, 2016

Merciful Leaders: Criteria for Elections in the Year of Mercy

(This is my article for my column which will be published in the CBCP Monitor)

Merciful Leaders: Criteria for Elections in the Year of Mercy

As the national and local elections draw near the question that everyone is asking: “who should I vote for?” It is not for the  clergy to dictate to the faithful who to vote for but we can only provide some guidelines that can help them make up their mind. The CBCP in previous elections came out with such guidelines which remain valid at this time. All that one needs to do is to review and follow what has already been laid down.

Since this year has been declared by Pope Francis as the Year of Mercy, it would be appropriate to emphasize “mercy” as one of the chief qualities that we have to expect from the politicians we should vote for.

What does it mean for leaders to be merciful?

It means being aware and concerned about the situation of the people – their suffering and pain. Since majority of the people are poor, their main concern is how to alleviate their poverty. They take the side of the poor. They are concerned about their hunger, their hopes and their dreams. They make sure that the economy excludes no one and benefits the majority instead of just enriching the big capitalists and foreign corporations.

Merciful leaders are concerned about the destruction of the environment and its effect on the people. They are concerned about the effects of mining on the farmers, fishermen and the indigenous peoples. They know that coal-fired power plants contribute to global warming and the coal mining is the most destructive form of mining. They know that logging and deforestation causes floods, droughts and global warming. They avoid getting involved in these activities and will do all in their power to put a stop to these activities and come up with policies that will save the environment and mitigate climate change as well as promote disaster risk reduction and management.

Merciful leaders are concerned about the effects of the never ending war on the nation. They know the effect of the spiral of violence on a traumatized people. They know how armed conflict prevents economic development. Thus, they go out of their way to build peace – a peace that addresses the roots of conflict and that leads to healing and reconciliation. They are willing to pursue the peace process with both the MILF and the NDF that will ensure a genuine and lasting peace.

Merciful leaders are not corrupt and do not tolerate corruption. They know that corruption perpetuates poverty, war and the destruction of the environment. They will do everything to stamp out corruption at all levels in government and hold accountable those guilty of corruption.

Merciful leaders are concerned about criminality and do their best to make sure that justice prevails. They make sure that those who have committed crimes are prosecuted and meted appropriate punishment. They respect the rights of people – even those accused of crimes – and follow the due process of the law. They avoid shortcuts and do not promote extra-judicial killings. They believe that even if people make mistakes, commit sin, or do terrible things no one is totally evil and beyond redemption. They deserve to be given another chance. Thus, they reject capital punishment and promote restorative justice.

Merciful leaders respect the basic human rights – especially the right to life - of everyone from the moment of conception to its natural end. They are merciful especially to the weakest – the unborn – and will make sure that their rights are respected. They will never allow abortion. They are merciful to the elderly and make sure that their rights and privileges are respected. They will make sure that the family will always be protected. Mercy should not be selective nor should it discriminate. It should be inclusive.

There are many people who clamor for strong leaders who they think can stop criminality, corruption and all forms of evil in society. They want leaders who can instill discipline among the citizens with an iron hand. They want ruthless leaders. For them being merciful is a sign of weakness. But what happens when leaders lack mercy? We can end up with a society where terror reigns, where dead bodies pile up and human rights are violated, where due process and the rule of law are ignored. It will be a repressive society - without freedom and where people are afraid to criticize the powers that be -- otherwise they too could be assassinated. Instead of peace and order, we will have the peace of the cemetery and a semblance of order maintained by ruthless bigger criminals.  Meanwhile, the vast majority remains poor and their children who have gone astray are mostly the victims of death squads. The big criminals – big time thieves and murderers -- are at large and hold office: the politicians who steal millions of the people’s money and responsible for the death of thousands.

Tough and ruthless leaders have emerged at various times in the past with disastrous results. We have to say: NEVER AGAIN!  No to ruthless leaders. Yes to merciful and compassionate leaders.

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