Hero or Villain?

With the upcoming elections in the Philippines, the USA, and here in the UK, every time I open my device it is flooded with astonishing election related pundits. It seems like there is some type of ‘social-media-war’ going on. Every statement by an avid supporter is filled with anguish and hatred; a lot of times the contents of their commentaries are created out of sheer ignorance that makes me burst into laughter.

With particular interest to the Philippines, I understand that the Filipino people are clamouring for a “CHANGE” but what saddens me is the fact that some people are willing to sell their soul to the ‘devil’ to achieve that goal. On top of that, a lot of Filipinos are ferociously begging their candidates to lead them towards their “dreamland” or should I say, “fantasyland.” Filipinos must first realise that change should start from ‘within’ — from their own hearts. Filipinos shouldn’t expect change to start at the top level of the government that will trickle down to the lowest level of society.

Let’s take a brief look at the Philippine politics in the last eighteen years, shall we?  Joseph aka ‘Erap’ Estrada captured the hearts of the masses with his ‘Erap para sa Mahirap’ (Erap for the Poor) slogan. Most Filipinos regarded him as a ‘saviour’ and he won the presidential election in 1998, and the margin of victory was the largest in a free election in the history of the Republic of the Philippines. Estrada was a former movie actor and he became the most popular president of the land. But his presidency was short-lived. And it was a disaster! After only 27 months in office, a huge scandal erupted and an impeachment trial started at the Philippine Congress with some politicians armed with an evidence that Estrada had accepted millions of dollars worth of bribes. On the 20th of January 2001, Estrada was ousted, and his vice-president, Gloria Arroyo, ascended to the presidency. Later that year, he was brought to trial, Estrada denied accusations of accepting $80 million through bribes and corrupt dealings but in 2007 he was convicted of plundering and sentenced to a maximum of 40 years in prison.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo succeeded Estrada, and as an economist, she spearheaded some reforms that fuelled the economic recovery of the country. Today, the current President, Noynoy Aquino, is reaping the fruits of Arroyo’s labour. Arroyo was the president from January 20, 2001 to June 30, 2010. Barely 17 months after she left Malacanang Palace, Arroyo was arrested following a criminal charge against her for electoral fraud. She was very ill at the time (according to his doctor and lawyer), and was held at the Veterans’ Memorial Medical Centre under charges of electoral sabotage. She was released on bail after four months, and then was rearrested in October 2012 while in the hospital on charges of misuse of $8.8 million in state lottery funds. To this day, the former president is under hospital arrest at the Veterans’ Memorial Medical Center.

How about the current president, Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino? Well, he only has a couple of months in Malacanang Palace, but there is no question that in the last five years, his accomplishments have exceeded many expectations and have outperformed all previous administrations. It’s not only the country’s economic performance that is widely attributed to his leadership but he tried to minimise corruption and has put into prison some of the most corrupt politicians like Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla amongst others. However, what assurances do we have that allegations of corruption and criminal activity will not follow his exit from office, as they did his predecessors?

Isn’t it interesting though, how a person is elevated to a god-like status before election, and then demoted to a prison cell after the election? Before the election, the candidate promotes himself/herself as the ‘saviour of the people’; after the election, the candidate proves himself/herself to be subject to the same iniquities and fallibility as the people? Before the election, the people buy into the catchy campaign slogans and propaganda, believing this candidate will wipe out corruption, solve poverty and turn the Philippines into a first world country; after the election, the people gradually learn that corruption continues, poverty remains and the country still staggers to be a competitor on the world stage.

As a Christian, I view the world from a biblical perspective:

Can a politician wipe out corruption? He/she may curve corruption, but cannot wipe it out entirely. The bible declares that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9) What is true of a person, is true of a nation and her government. Corruption will be with us always, until the Lord Jesus Christ returns and introduces a new heavens and a new earth.

Can a politician eradicate poverty? He/she may create an environment which provides greater opportunities for people to work and earn a living; he/she may introduce initiatives that help offset the terrible conditions incurred by poverty; but no politician or government will eradicate it entirely. Jesus said, “For ye have the poor always with you.” (Matt 26:11) Ultimately, it behooves the wealthier people of a nation to give charitably to those without, and an argument can be made that this should be managed by churches and charitable organisations, rather than an elite group of politicians in government.

Can a politician turn the Philippines into a first world country? Possibly, and every Filipino who loves the country rightly desires that this may one day be a reality. But in the end, does this long term goal justify elevating a candidate to the status of a hero, or worst, a saviour? The astounding answer from history, is NO! Six hundred years before the birth of Christ, Jeremiah wrote in the book of his prophecy: “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” (Jer 17:5-8) The Jews had committed the fatal error of trusting in man. They trusted in the Egyptians and Assyrians (Jer 2:36,37) to their ruin; they trusted in Abraham and Moses (Matt 3:8,9; Phil 3:4-6) without regard to the Lord; they trusted in their own hearts (Prov 28:26; Matt 15:1-20; Lk 18:9-14) which was to their shame and folly.

Is not the country better served, when the people look to the Lord for help, rather than man? And if it be asked what the people should be looking for from the Lord, are we not guided by the general principle of Proverbs 14:34? “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Let the candidate be measured by this principle, and I believe the people will discover less corruption in government, a decrease of poverty in the nation, and a quicker road towards economic recovery, and eventually into a first world country.

Growing up in the Philippines, I was no stranger to politics because some of my family were politicians (some relatives still are to this day). On hindsight, it probably fuelled my desire for public service when I was growing up hence, I took up political science in college. But after getting my degree, I found out that it’s not my calling in life. I’ve personally been involved in political campaigns; going from village to village, handing out leaflets, talking to people, and encouraging them to vote for my uncle (my mother’s youngest brother), and other relatives who were running for office. We had clean, honest elections back then, at least in my beloved hometown. And looking back, those were some of the most interesting and fun summers I had as a young girl. Back then, the ‘vote-buying’ rubbish that is now so prevalent throughout the Philippines was non-existent or unheard of in my province — at least to my knowledge growing up. Indeed, times have changed. In the last ten years or so, ‘vote-buying’ has been widely practiced even in my hometown.

I hope the ‘revival’ the Filipino people are looking for will be realised after the upcoming elections. However, if the current trend continues, I fear they will put in power a leader that will bring a reproach upon the nation instead of exalting her. Rather than a ‘revival’, they may simply experience a rude awakening!

Oh, The Irony! But that is what goads poetry!

One day you’re invincible.
Next day you’re vulnerable.
One day you’re the cream of the crop.
Next day you’re the unpopular sap.
One day you’re hosting a charity ball.
Next day you’re posting your bail.
One day you’re partying and globe trotting.
Next day you’re in a leeward drifting.
One day you’re society’s aristocracy.
Next day you’re convicted of felony.
One day you mimic everyone humorously.
Next day you are a subject of mockery.
One day you live in a palace and a mansion.
Next day you’re in prison and waiting conviction.
One day you think you own the universe.
Next day you’re sick and can’t even converse.
One day you’re alive and kicking.
Next day you’re clinging to life and hardly surviving.

Such is life, indeed! What a wonder.
What a mystery! It should cause each of us to ponder.