On May 2022, the Philippines will elect a new president, vice president, senators, congress representatives and local government officials. This will be my first time to vote here in the Philippines since I returned from Canada in 2006. As in Canada, I’m aligning myself politically with a liberal democratic party. Here in the Philippines, a similar political ideology is being led by a woman presidential candidate. Families, religious communities, civil society organizations, business, academia and many other sectors of society are divided right now because of political differences. Although Joji and I are officially employed by Mennonite Church Canada Witness, this is our personal political choice and not, in any way, reflective of Mennonite Church of Canada.
I’m facing this election season with fervent prayers in my heart:
I pray that all the lies, graft and corruption would be exposed! I pray that the guilty ones would immediately be relieved from their positions of power. I pray that the honest public servant-leaders would be placed in positions of authorities for genuine transformation of our country’s governance. I pray for a new system of government with a new set of transparent servant-leaders — local, provincial, national — who truly love our people and would work to regenerate our land.
The major choices right now are between former senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and vice president Leni Robredo.
Marcos is allied with the current president, Rodrigo Duterte. There is a big possibility that the Marcoses and the Dutertes will run in tandem. They are still struggling internally on who would be the presidential candidate and the vice presidential candidate.
I have traumatic experiences under the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. in the 1970s. The Marcoses have stolen millions of dollars from Philippine treasury despite the many attempts to deny these facts through historical revisions they are financing. His son, Ferdinand Jr., keeps the stolen public wealth and uses them for his campaign.
I’m a repentant former supporter of Duterte’s presidency. Since he came to power in 2016, around 25,000 people were killed under his War on Drugs. Millions of dollars intended to protect the people from CoViD were plundered. Many of his public statements were proven to be lies.
I made a public declaration that I will support and campaign for Leni Lobredo to be the next president of the Republic of the Philippines. To me, this is the time for the people to choose leaders who would be instruments of transformation:
- from lies to truth;
- from a culture of killing to a culture of life-giving;
- from impunity to the rule of law;
- from a ‘norm of injustice’ to a functional system of justice;
- from a dehumanizing language to a humanizing language;
- from deception to transparency;
- from hunger to plenty;
- from capricious declarations to well-processed policies;
- from violence to nonviolence;
- from the politics of personalities to the politics of principles;
- from wounding each other to healing each other.
Some of my social media friends (who often behave as if they are my enemies) unfriended me and a few have blocked me online. One said, “You have ceased to behave like a neutral peacebuilder.”
Another one asked: “Do you still have the right to be an advocate of peace and reconciliation?”
I’m saddened that they did what they feel they should. At the same time, part of me felt liberated.
I’ll still greet them with respect as a human being created in the image of the Creator. If they are willing, I’d still treat them for coffee. For peace. Hoping that they would really talk about truths that correspond with facts, truths that are coherent rationally and logically, and truths that are consistent with what is good, righteous, and just.
Loving, unifying leadership in the context of conflict can be expressed either through mediation or negotiation.
When there is a national debate on truth and justice, one can choose to be a negotiator of one party in conflict, or to be a mediator.
If one chooses to be a mediator, it can be expressed by doing voters’ education, being volunteers with the Commission on Election, joining the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, and other neutral ways of serving the nation during election. This can be done with love and with a unifying leadership.
When one chooses to be a negotiator, it doesn’t necessarily mean becoming hateful and being divisive in a malicious way. In times of election, the truths and lies of participating parties are articulated with much intensity. That can be loving and liberating because truth sets a nation free. And when a nation is truly free to express views in plurality, there can be unity. “E pluribus unum,” as the American saying goes.
Most of the time, I practice being a mediator as part of my vocation as a peacebuilder.
But every election season, I often choose to be a negotiator for the position of the party I believe represents the best path for the land and the people I love.
I support Leni Robredo and I do this as my expression of love. For the Creator. For the People. For the Creation.