Such a leader is nameless for now because we should not preempt the process. But the description answers the one question I have been getting for sometime now. In choosing the next President, I will propose that we assign an important role to religion and morality. Admittedly, no human society can stand for long without any moral or religious foundation; the quality of its governance will always rest on the strength of its religious and moral values and principles. Its policies and programs will rise or fall as they conform or fail to conform to those values and principles.
Now if our unlit galaxy of politicians believe this, they have not made it manifest in their personal behavior. They casually invoke God in their speeches, as Mrs. Grace Poe Llamanzares and Sen. Francis Escudero did when they launched their respective candidacies at the University of the Philippines, but they will not go beyond using God and religion for their cheap political ends.
The moral issues
Even as the nation prepares for the May 9, 2016 presidential elections, those values and principles have remained unexplored in our public discussions. Completely neglected, if not condemned, are those values and principles. For example: The Constitution commands that no person shall be considered for the presidency unless he is, first of all, a natural-born Filipino. Yet a number of us seem so determined to foist upon the nation a former American citizen, whose husband and children are all Americans, who does not meet two basic requirements under the Constitution, and who has lied so brazenly about these two things in order to hoodwink the voters.
This is not only a constitutional question but above all a moral one. We know Mrs. Grace Poe Llamanzares is not eligible for the office. But more than that, she knows, and the nation knows she knows, she is not eligible for the office. Still she would like us to believe that “the people” want her to become President, regardless of what the Constitution and the law say, which everyone else considers sacrosanct. If truth alone can set us free, what happens when we lie about the most important details of our lives and insist on imposing our lies on those who already know we are lying?
The Comelec ruling
The Commission on Elections en banc has already affirmed the decisions of the First and Second Divisions on the four petitions against Mrs. Llamanzares. They have disqualified her as a presidential candidate and cancelled her Certificate of Candidacy for not being a natural-born citizen and for failing to meet the 10-year residency requirement under the Constitution. This ruling was to have become final and executory after five o’clock Monday afternoon.
Through my lawyer Atty. Manuelito Luna, I had asked the Comelec to enforce the resolution of the First Division. But in an apparent effort to avoid being accused of depriving Mrs. Llamanzares any chance of exhausting all legal remedies against her disqualification and cancellation of her CoC, the Chief Justice temporarily restrained the implementation of the resolution until the Supreme Court, which is not in session now, could hear it en banc on January 10, 2016. This puts to rest the accusation that the Comelec affirmed Mrs. Llamanzares’s disqualification and the cancellation of her CoC on Dec. 23, knowing that the High Court was on recess.
What the TRO means
The TRO is provisional, issued without the full court behind it, because of the peculiar circumstances obtaining at the moment. It can be dissolved anytime. It holds in abeyance the implementation of the Comelec decision, but it does render my motion for its implementation moot and academic. The provisional TRO does not pass upon the merit of the Comelec decision or on Mrs. Llamanzares’s petition. But it frees the High Court from any false accusation that it wants to leave Mrs. Llamanzares no chance to work out her defense. It is an extra mile for fairness.
Understandably, the Respondent cites the provisional TRO to claim that she has not yet been disqualified, that her CoC has not yet been cancelled, and that she is still a candidate for President. This is quite ingenuous and misleading. The Comelec is the sole and final arbiter of the case at bar, and it has disqualified Mrs. Llamanzares as a candidate and cancelled her CoC for President. But its decision is subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court, if there is an allegation of grave abuse of discretion. Pending determination by the Court, it has temporarily prevented the decision from running, but it has not reversed it.
Nevertheless the Llamanzares camp has apparently no illusion about the end-result of this case, for it has unleashed a massive propaganda campaign warning against possible chaos if she is finally shut out of the race. This would “deprive the people of their right to choose their own leader,” and they will not take it sitting down, her propagandists suggest. They have already planted some seeds in the street. It is vulgar and cheap.
A duck in a cockfight?
It is like a duck farmer threatening to blast the cockpit to kingdom come if he is not allowed to enter his duck in a cockfight meant only for battle cocks. The remedy there should be to transform ducks into cocks, but not even a Caligula could do that–he could not even make a Roman consul out of his horse Incitatus. In any case, if that power existed, neither the Constitution nor elections would be needed.
The problem here is not only constitutional. The Respondent suffers from a serious truth and morality deficit. A very poor qualification for the Presidency, assuming her powerful backers could persuade the Justices to regard the duck as a more majestic bird. So much for this.
Search for a strong leader
Now, so many others among us seem electrified by the sound bites from Mayor Duterte who seems to believe that his avowed ability to terminate suspected criminals without due process, and to violate the canons of Christian marriage, are a necessary qualification for the highest office. It is not only Mayor Duterte but above all those who cheer him on, who personify the idiotization of our politics and the total derangement of our society. If we are looking for a strong leader, we must find a gentle and just man who will uphold the law everywhere and always. For nothing is as strong as gentleness, says St. Francis de Sales, nothing so gentle as real strength.
We need such a leader in our society at this time when the idea of right or wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral, godly or ungodly has gone astray; when the struggle for power has replaced everything else that used to be indispensable to the flourishing of excellence; when the pleasures of the body have completely replaced the cravings of the spirit, and the counsel of apostates, atheists and hedonists has superseded the call of the saints. “These world crises are crises of saints,” we are reminded in the spiritual classic, The Way. ‘God wants a handful of man ‘of his own’ in every human activity.”
Search for saints
Everyone is called to be a saint, says the Gospel. The French writer Leon Bloy says the greatest tragedy in life is not to become a saint. Saint Josemaria Escriva says you don’t have to do extraordinary things to become a saint. You only have to do ordinary things extraordinarily well with a lot of love of God. St. Thomas Aquinas, when asked how one becomes a saint, was known to have replied, “You have to want it” and want it as a miser wants his gold. Now, despite our Catholic Christian culture, almost every politician, including the unfit, wants to become president, but hardly anyone wants to become a saint.
Although most of them have received the gift of Christianity, and they publicly call upon God to bless their pursuit of public office, the truth of the Church and their Christian identity are the first things they throw away. They also seek to propagate the false and extremely dangerous notion that every human activity, except the political, could be made holy. They try to portray politics and holiness as antithetical to each other, and they try to behave in such a way as to leave no one in doubt about it. Indeed, there may be no saints yet in our midst, but every sinner should be a sinner struggling to become a saint.
We need a real paradigm shift. We always get the government we seem to deserve, but in truth what we manage to get is never what we truly deserve. As creatures of a just and merciful God, we deserve much better, not because of what we are, but because God is God and in spite of what we are He never ceases to believe in us. Indeed, we only have to work for it, using our freedom and our intelligence, or simply to abandon ourselves to His mercy and grace. As Blessed John Henry Newman says, we are called to great hazards, but we are intended for great ends.
Our ultimate task is to perfect the human condition, even from a purely temporal perspective. The betterment of society is a conditio sine qua non to the attainment of that objective. Yet we cannot make society any better without the participation of the men and women in government. Now, how can government ever perform that role if the first thing society does is to separate politicians from the rest, and declare that as politicians they are supposed to be mendacious, murderous, lecherous, crooked and corrupt? How can we expect any good from them when from the very start society counts them out as no good?
True to one’s oath
Every president takes the following oath when he assumes office: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties a President of the Philippines, preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the nation. So help me God.” It is a big oath. But not as big as that which a mature man takes before God, his Church, his wife and his future children to love and to cherish his dearly beloved, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part.” But if we elect a man who thinks adultery is an important qualification for high office, how can we expect him to be ever faithful to his oath of office?
In choosing the next president, we must not forget that ours is a predominantly Catholic Christian country, part of a great civilization which was built by “looking at man while listening to God.” It must be led by the fittest men and women who share the religious beliefs and moral values of the many. Only in this way can we truly become one nation under God while keeping our multicultural diversity.