A better politics, a kinder country

"May our New Year be blessed, happy and grace-filled."



More than any hope I have for the coming year, I would like to see better politics for the Philippines. More than any New Year’s resolution I have for this year, it is the promise to work very hard, so we can reform national and local politics, starting with the 2019 elections.

Improving our politics is not an end in itself. If we succeed in this, we will have peace in our communities; we will have a gentler, kinder country.

To reflect on what we need to do to transform our politics, I borrow words from Pope Francis’ message for the celebration of the 52nd World Day of Peace today. It is entitled “Good politics is at the service of peace” and was officially issued today, the first of January 2019, even as an advance copy was released in December 2018.

The core message of Pope Francis is that good politics is at the service of peace. “It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations.”

For Francis, “politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction . . . Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.”

Pope Francis quotes the “Beatitudes of the Politician,” articulated by Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận from Vietnam. These too are the politicians the Philippines need:

“Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.

Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.

Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.

Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.

Blessed be the politician who works for unity. 

Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change. 

Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening. 

Blessed be the politician who is without fear.”

Politics of course has negative aspects, “its share of vices, whether due to personal incompetence or to flaws in the system and its institutions”, “vices, which undermine the ideal of an authentic democracy, bring disgrace to public life and threaten social harmony.”

Corruption, as we see in the Philippines, comes in different forms: “the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power. To which we can add xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.”

Pope Francis describes good politics as promoting the participation of the young and trust in others. He observes that when the exercise of political power just protects the interests of the elite, the future is compromised and young people lose confidence, “relegated to the margins of society without the possibility of helping to build the future.”

On the contrary, when politics enables the talents of young people and their aspirations, “peace grows in their outlook and on their faces” and becomes a confident assurance that says, “I trust you and with you I believe” that we can all work together for the common good.”

Pope Francis highlights the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948 in Paris, France. He quotes Saint Pope John XXIII: “Man’s awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties. The possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a man’s personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by others.”

Peace is enabled by politics. As such, it is “the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings” but at the same time is a continuing challenge “that demands to be taken up ever anew.” What it asks of us is a conversion of heart and soul, a conversion of self and community.

The conversion asked of us has three inseparable aspects: First, “peace with oneself,” rejecting inflexibility, anger and impatience; in the words of Saint Francis de Sales, showing “a bit of sweetness towards oneself” in order to offer “a bit of sweetness to others”; Second, “peace with others: family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering, being unafraid to encounter them and listen to what they have to say; and, third, “peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.”

Pope Francis ends his message by emphasizing how the politics of peace, “conscious of and deeply concerned for every situation of human vulnerability”, can be inspired by the Magnificat, which Mary sang for all humanity: “He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly; …for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.”

No more EJKs! No more killings of lawyers and judges! No more murders of politicians! No more massacres of farmers! No more dispersal of workers and no more Endo! No more displacement of Lumad communities! No more NPA attacks! No more misogyny! No more foolish attempts to change the constitution! No more harassment of human rights workers! Yes to peace in Mindanao and the Bangsamoro Orgnanic Law! Yes to resumption of peace talks with the communists! Yes to inclusive mobility, including a regulated Angkas option for commuters! Yes to agrarian reform! Yes to the rights of labor, urban poor, indigenous people, peasant and other sectors! Yes to more transparency and accountability in government! Yes to peaceful elections and a good result with the better politicans winning! Yes to a stronger and more militant student movement, led by Kabataan and other youth groups, Yes to addrsssing climate change and natural disasters! Yes to independence from foreign powers, especially China and the United States! And finally, Yes to a better and kinder Philippines!

To my readers, a blessed, happy, and grace-filled New Year!

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Topics: Philippines , New Year , Pope Francis , Politics , World Day of Peace
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