Elections and the duty of every Christian
By Archbishop Socrates Villegas
It is not difficult to feel the election fever — even if the 2016 elections are still so (many) months away. It has always been complained that the efforts of the Church and other non-political groups to educate voters come too late. It is the reason for this letter, this early — so that it may never be again said that we spoke too late.
The exercise of the right of suffrage is not only a political right. It is also a moral obligation. For the Christian it is one of the most meaningful and effective means of contributing to the flourishing of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice, peace and love. And so while politicians plan and strategize, and, this early, find ways of circumventing the law against premature campaigning, the Church cannot be remiss in its obligation of forming the consciences of Catholic and Christian voters.
Vote for the right reasons. Vote, not because you have been paid, or promised bounty, not because you or your relatives have been promised employment or privilege but because you trust a person to lead the community and to lead the country. Just as the discerning voter will not be easily won over by all the flattery in favor of one candidate, neither should a voter allow ‘demolition jobs’ to dissuade him from choosing a person who is truly fit for office.
Reject the notoriously corrupt, but neither should one readily jump on the bandwagon of condemnation in the absence of incontrovertible evidence, for, these days, one’s reputation, so painstakingly built by sincerity and honesty over the years, can so easily be tarnished by the truly evil work of “spin-doctors” in the payroll of one or the other political aspirant!
End political dynasties. Do not vote for family members running for the same positions as family members before them to perpetrate the family’s hold on public office. When it is clear that one politician clings to public office, seeking election to some other position after he has run the length of the permissible number of terms in one elective office, the Christian voter should prudently choose others who may have equal if not superior abilities and competencies for the position. There is no monopoly on ability for government, and truly no one in government is indispensable!
Ask the right questions as basis of your selection among candidates. Do not demand to know of a congressman or a senator what his or her local projects have been. Legislators are not supposed to have local projects. They are supposed to legislate, to attend congressional sessions, rise to debate and actively take part in committee hearings. Ask, rather, whether or not they have attended the sessions of the Lower House or of the Senate diligently and regularly. On the other hand, do not make ‘kapit sa taas’ a criterion for the choice of local elective officials, because a local official leads by his own charisma and leadership skills. We reject a government by patronage!
A person who aspires for high office but who, because of inexperience, will be totally dependent on advisers is not the best possible candidate for national positions, but we should be willing to repose trust on those who, we are convinced, are capable of leading and of serving with probity, high above suspicion and with skill, competence and wisdom that comes from abiding faith. That a person is a firm believer, and that he or she practices her faith should be a crucial consideration for the Catholic voter.
Every vote a Christian casts is not only an instance of the exercise of those liberties and rights we have as free citizens. Because the Kingdom of God is God’s gift, inaugurated, as Lumen Gentium teaches, in the world by the life, ministry, death and Resurrection of Jesus, The Lord, we are commissioned to do what is within our ability to make God’s Kingdom a living experience for all of his people. And a vote wisely and virtuously cast is a fulfillment of that commission!
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines