Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. — The Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy, 3:1-5
In the last week before the May 9 elections, this column reprints past articles about ideal qualities for elected leaders, especially the President. Today’s rerun of the Sept. 29, 2015 column expounds on Saint Paul’s Letter to Timothy, quoted above.
Though referring to early Christian leaders, the Epistle offers a good set of dos and don’ts for Filipino leaders as well. After all, a religion that has amassed 2 billion believers worldwide over 2,015 years, despite persecution, schisms, and its share of wayward leaders, must know a thing or two about running a nation.
Now, wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air to have leaders beyond reproach, faithful to their spouses, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, gentle and not quarrelsome? And not enamored with money.
The nation thought we had such a president in Benigno Aquino 3rd. He didn’t have a wife, but his fabled parents and his anti-corruption slogan and campaign made many think he was irreproachable.
Sadly, the reality, recounted in “Is Aquino Corrupt?”, our Sept. 10 column <http://www.manilatimes.net/is-aquino-corrupt/217735/>, has raised disturbing questions about him. And the way politics has been practiced under him may have also encouraged wrong leadership habits and ways.
The love of lucre
If leaders are not supposed to be lovers of money, somebody forgot to tell both Malacañang and Congress. When the Palace wanted pet bills enacted or peevish officials ejected, it made sure the Senate and the House wallowed in pork-barrel grease.
Other administrations used the Priority Development Assistance Fund to get legislators dancing to the President’s tune ever since PDAF’s precursor, then called the Countryside Development Fund, was born under Aquino’s mother, Corazon.
But the amounts and brazenness of pork under Aquino leveled up, with amounts trebled from past years, and queues for fund releases at Speaker Sonny Belmonte’s office right after greased votes were cast.
Even worse from the Christian view were pork perks proferred to pass the Reproductive Health Bill. After calling for a “conscience vote,” Aquino used Congress’s favorite carrot so lawmakers would play deaf to God’s voice in their hearts — that’s what conscience is — and listen to the kaching in their pockets.
Quantum leap in quarrelsome
Lucre love isn’t the only bad habit exacerbated in recent years. There’s quarrelsome, too. Now, Filipino politicians have always been a nasty bunch, always giving tit for tat.
Hardly a day passes when there isn’t some elected or electable leader pointing the finger at another of his or her kind, claiming anomaly or inanity, but really fighting not for principle or the public good, but pogi points and media mileage.
But here again, there seems to be an escalation in top-level testiness in the current regime. While bigwigs certainly won’t leave digs from rival worthies unanswered, they usually ignore missives from mere mortals in kind.
Until Aquino’s retort in devastated Tacloban at a distraught rice trader telling of armed looters firing at his warehouse. Instead of sympathy or remedy, Aquino let loose: “You’re still alive, aren’t you?” — setting a new standard for quarrelsomeness.
Being quarrelsome puts the leader — his pride, position, views, feelings, and wants — above others. Even when he stands up for principle or the public good, it’s really for his own prestige and advancement. And that’s the exact opposite of the leader God wants.
‘The servant of all’
When Jesus heard His apostles arguing who was the greatest of them, He admonished: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Faced with suffering, the servant-leader is quick to help victims and alleviate agony, not shift blame and skirt responsibility. He does not tolerate anomalies that rob and burden the nation, like the crony maintenance contract, which messed up the Metro Rail Transit.
Most of all, he would not commit the worst offense in God’s book: leading others to sin, for instance, by abetting unprecedented smuggling at the ports, plying lawmakers with illicit funds, or pressuring judges to render unjust, unlawful rulings.
Now if we keep getting the wrong kind of leaders, it’s our fault too. Philippine political culture favors tough-talking, dole-dispensing candidates with vast nationwide networks of loyalists, who then want their cut in the spoils of victory.
Rather than being served, the least of our brethren are too often left to suffer, then manipulated through media into cheering the powers that be. These self-serving potentates should hear the prophet Ezekiel lambasting ancient Israel’s leaders:
“I, the Lord God, say you shepherds of Israel are doomed! You take care of yourselves while ignoring my sheep. You drink their milk and use their wool to make your clothes. Then you butcher the best ones for food. But you don’t take care of the flock! You have never protected the weak ones or healed the sick ones or bandaged those that get hurt. You let them wander off and never look for those that get lost. You are cruel and mean to my sheep.”
Yesterday [Sept. 28] was the feast of a Filipino who served and offered his life for the Lord. May God give our leaders some of the righteousness, service, and sacrifice gifted to Saint Lorenzo Ruiz. And may He open our eyes to choose those who would serve with integrity and compassion — not the quarrelsome lovers of money we keep electing.