SemNet’s call for a clean, honest, accurate, meaningful, and peaceful election
We are once again at a crucial point in history. Under the helm of Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines had been living in a bed of untruths. The last presidential election saw the rise to political power of Rodrigo Duterte, a man who touted himself as capable of saving the Filipino people from the country’s longstanding problems of inequality and poverty. A plurality of 16 million Filipinos believed that Duterte was the man who will give voice to their desire for a better future. But his self-fulfilling prophecy was a big lie and his promises were empty rhetoric. Instead of uniting the Filipino people in a massive war against a dehumanizing poverty, Duterte divided the nation by creating a moral “us” against an immoral “them,” thus treating human life arbitrarily. This narrow moral worldview motivated Duterte to demonize minorities, silence dissent, weaken checks and balances, repress media freedom, and pursue discriminatory legalism. Yet Pope Francis sends out a strong reminder in Fratelli Tutti: We are either all saved together or no one is saved (FT 137).
The raging pandemic is an eye-opener to the catastrophic hubris of Duterte. The population is starving, people are dying, and Filipinos are desperate. Every Filipino bears the brunt from the consequences of our poor choice of leadership. But in the bleakness of our situation, a few good Filipinos choose to respond with empathy. The valor of our self-sacrificing frontliners and the emergence of kindness stations and community pantries all over the country has rekindled the bayanihan spirit that empowers communities to take responsibility for their most vulnerable members. The power to transform hopeless circumstances lies within ourselves. This grassroots effort is an antidote to apathy and frees us from dependence on savior figures. We need to establish a network of empowered communities, and they need to be sustained by national leaders who will build the enabling structures that provide communities the agency to improve their situation for a long-term common good. This is a mission which our Church shares, and we can make significant contributions.
We, the Seminarians’ Network of the Philippines, believe in the capacity of the Filipino’s bayanihan spirit to restore the civil society that Duterte sought to dismantle. The national elections in 2022 offer us the opportunity to embark on a common project of rebuilding our nation based on high principles (FT 178). The values of honor, integrity, compassion, and solidarity that have always sustained the Filipino spirit are at stake. We need to go beyond short-sightedness, petty provincialism, and mere superficiality in order to make better choices with far-reaching responsibilities and impact.
We call on all theology seminarians in the country to exercise their right to suffrage by registering and voting in the coming elections. We encourage each seminary to work with the local governments, social action centers, and communities to ensure that the election will be clean, honest, accurate, meaningful, and peaceful. We urge everyone to engage their circles of influence, especially our youth, in conversations that will help form their conscience in choosing leaders who live out their values. We enjoin each one to help build communities of solidarity and form leaders who will enable their flourishing. We need to learn from this populist regime how to build an inclusive political system in which no voice is silenced and wherein no Filipino is left uncared for. Only then can the Filipino nation reclaim its soul that was lost under the failed messiah that is Duterte. The Filipino is not a lost cause.
13 May 2021
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