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The Philippines and the world are anticipating the next big event in Philippine history. No, it’s not the Manny Pacquiao fight with Ricky Hatton. Well, okay, maybe the second next big event (for who can deny the excitement and anticipation that this fight is bringing to the world). I am talking about the upcoming national elections in 2010.

Indeed the political season is in the air. I’m sure you can feel it as well. The billboards in EDSA are slowly showing the faces of Presidentiables while TV and radio advertisements are no longer limited to ordinary consumer advertising campaigns. I can name a few…Senator Mar Roxas – “peddling” his way to the hearts of the masses; Senator Manny Villar – highlighting the OFW assistances he made out of his own pocket and the most recent would be Mayor Jejomar Binay of Makati – showing the progress of the Philippines’ corporate capital. I was particularly amused by the “unwitting comment” (sorry, I just know that everything in advertisement is scripted) made by one Makati resident suggesting that hopefully the progress experienced in Makati will be experienced by the whole nation. Hmmm…vying for a Senator slot, huh?

Anyway, how does this relate to you and me? Well, the future is in our hands – literally. However, we often underestimate our responsibility as voters. Aside from actually voting, it is also our accountability to make sure that we spread the word from “voter’s rights” to actual sharing of our views in choosing the right officials to serve the country. You see – yours is only one vote and unless you discuss and share your opinions with others – then, whatever your views are will remain yours alone. Another critical responsibility is policing our elections. The reality is that any system will always experience glitches both intentional and unintentional. The best thing that we can do is to make it hard for cheating politicians and disruptors to do their thing.

I’m sure you have your own qualifications for a leader. I will be upfront with you and share my belief that the number one character we should look for in a leader is righteousness (uprightness, morality). I have heard a lot of people say that the main problem of the Philippines is that we do not fear the law. Even our own lawmakers and governing leaders have made a mockery of the law and have repeatedly used their positions to their own personal advantages. I agree. However, I believe that the greater problem of the Philippines is that we do not fear God. The “fear of God” that I am referring to is reverential fear (fear out of love and respect). It is on this junction that I will swing a hard blow… we are as guilty as everyone else.

But then, that is just one person’s opinion.

The Philippines is known as the only Christian country in Asia. However, what has been a source of pride before has now become a source of ridicule. How can the only Christian nation in Asia be also known as the Perpetually Sick Man of Asia?

In Exodus 18:21-22, the qualities for the leaders of Israel were outlined for Moses.

“Moreover, thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:

And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.”

The Bible is clear in giving out these characteristics:

  1. Able men
  2. God-fearing
  3. Men of truth
  4. Hates covetousness (Greediness, Materialism)
  5. Bears the burden of other leaders

I am not a Bible expert but this is my trial to apply this to our present state:

Able men – Ability to lead may be measured by track record, leadership experience and actual knowledge and skills. I personally look into the candidate’s personal attempts in furthering their knowledge and skills. Garbage in, garbage out.

God-fearing – Simply claiming that a person is God-fearing does not at all mean that it is true. Sorry to say but, more so, if this is claimed by a politician. The true indicator of a “God-fearing” person is seen in his life.

Matthew 7:20 states, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

Morality is a specific thing. Being moral or righteous is a specific state. There is just no gray area. Therefore, moral accountability in a person’s life is a preview of his moral accountability in the nation. If a candidate is a known rapist or a philanderer, will you be surprised if he lobbies for the legalization of prostitution or use influence to dip his hands in the public fund to support his mistresses? (The lesson should be very obvious by now.) The same logic is applicable to other moral violations no matter how petty from gambling to drug trading.

Men of truth – Truthfulness is not only reflected in words. Truthfulness is reflected in all of our dealings as a human. Therefore, if a person is a businessman, how he conducts his businesses should be measured. Does he evade taxes? Does he practice fair employment policies and wages? How can you prove his sincerity? Are his words translated into actions?

Hates covetousness – Note the word “hate”. Imagine having a leader who hates materialism or greediness! This would require a proactive stance. Not only will that person avoid greediness but he will also ensure that no person under him will covet. Imagine having a mayor or a governor who will ensure that nobody will perform graft and corruption for his entire term! Imagine having a president who will take an aggressive stance against graft and corruption such that anybody who is proven to be corrupt will be truly prosecuted and will be punished. Imagine a bribe-free customs or BIR.

On an economist point of view, an honest government will not only result to operational efficiencies but also to millions of pesos worth of direct investments. Investments will not only result to more taxable income for the government (which will later translate to government servicing such as social services, education and health) but also generate thousands of employment which will eventually improve the lives of Filipino families. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has reported that over $48 billion has been lost by one East Asian country in 20 years due to corruption. (http://www.adb.org/documents/policies/anticorruption/anticorrupt400.asp?p=policies) To a layman, this would mean that if the government is efficient, then the government can provide for our basic needs. For a clearer illustration, just look at the state of our public school system and see how the millions of dollars of foreign aid and taxes were wasted due to corruption and how these money could have helped in ensuring that every Filipino child goes to school.

We desperately need leaders who HATE GREEDINESS in all forms.

Bears the burden of other leaders – I was thinking how this can be applied given our political system. I can just imagine how difficult it would be to govern one municipality that it is simply impossible to efficiently “meddle” with the governance of another.

The revelation to me here is that the “burden” referred is the leader’s burden for the country. If that is so, then, it only means that the leaders that we elect should look past political affiliations and relationships and put the welfare of the country first and foremost. This way, our leaders will only be answerable to God and to the Filipino people.

I am just one opinion…and I sincerely hope that I have been able to impart well. However, there are millions of people who have yet to know the significance of choosing right leaders. Most of these people will just look at “what this candidate has done for me” which usually involves superficial acts such as giving Php 500 or donating construction money for the basketball court. Many of these acts have proven successful for most politicians…and look where our country is right now.

We cannot sit back, relax, and hope that this election will be the turning point for our country. If you are one of the people who hope for the Philippines to move forward and enjoy the full blessings of the Lord, let me tell you that God orders you to rise up and make a stand. Pray for the country. Pray for the elections as early as now. Even the politicians are massively preparing for the elections as early as the last elections. Share your thoughts. Be active agents of change. Do what you can do to protect and help our country.

Only God can place leaders and He always has a purpose for everything. What I have learned throughout my Christian life is that faith is anchored in obedience to God. God’s command and promise is clear:

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:22

You already know God’s promise and how to claim it. What are you going to do?

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You might notice that I have titled this entry, “Stewards”. I was also surprised in the timeliness of this quiet time, which again proves how eternal God’s Word is. So as not to pre-empt the twist and turns of this entry…I will now proceed to my sharing.

The story of creation is not only a reminder how God created us. It is also a strong remembrance of God’s mandate to His creation from the smallest of the fishes up to the creatures made in His own image – us. After God created everything He blessed His creation with these words, “Be fruitful, and multiply…” (Genesis 1:22). Now what I got from this is that the Lord intended for His creation not only to bear fruits but also to multiply. Bear with me on this and don’t say, “Duh!” yet. J

Isn’t it comforting to realize that when the Lord created all of the earth, He didn’t just intend all of it to reproduce but he wanted and designed it to multiply? God wanted His creation to “take care” of itself in abundance. He blessed the earth with abundance so that anyone or anything of His creation will have unlimited supply of resources! Wait…it gets better.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created he them.”

Genesis 1:26-27

Now we enter the scene. I just wanted to highlight our design and identityour position in God’s creation. You and I were made after God’s image – in His likeness! This should explain why among all of God’s creation, we have constantly improved from generation to generation. An animal 20 years ago – its potentials, its habits, its life – has the same characteristics as an animal now in 2009 same with the other creatures. But an ordinary man, 20 years ago does not have the same potential, knowledge, habits and characteristics as we have now. God have designed us to be superior among all of creation. And He has designed us that way with a purpose:

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”

Genesis 1:28-31

I firmly believe that everything has a reason and a purpose. God blessed us with abilities beyond our own understanding for a divine purpose. What is that purpose then? From my limited, human understanding – here is my insight from God’s Word:

  1. Be fruitful – You and I are designed to “bear fruits”, to produce something. Our existence is not pointless. Whatever abilities and talents you may have now were given so that you can make use of them in doing something. Whether you are a college student, an accountant, a lawyer, a researcher, a doctor, an undergrad worker, a factory worker, an OFW…from a month-old to a hundred…we were designed to produce something. We are not meant to be idle, to just go with the flow. You and I were created to bear fruits.

  1. Multiply – Like all other creation, our reproduction in the physical and symbolic sense is not limited to a one-time thing. Our design is to multiply. Your minimum wage salary is not designed to be minimum-wage throughout your life. Your small business is not designed to be small forever. Your skills today are not designed to be in the same, stagnant state after a few months. God gave us the abilities and resources we need so that we will improve our state…constantly.

Now, if all of creation is designed to be abundant such that it is unlimited to all who occupy it…then why do we experience shortage in our resources. Let’s visit the following commands of God.

  1. Replenish the earth – “to replenish” would literally mean… to refill, stock up, reload…the exact opposite would mean to reduce, exhaust, use up, drain, run down. I think you already know where I am leading. Wait…there’s more.
  2. Subdue the earth – “subdue” would mean to have control or to overpower right?
  3. Have dominion over the earth – “to dominate” would be to have complete authority and governance…hmmm?

If you think that this entry is about taking care of the environment and all…well, you are right. But my take is both on the abstract or intangible resources (such as talents, skills, and blessings) and on the physical or natural resources that we are blessed with. J (I might discuss the abstract side on another entry so as not to remove the stress on the two aspects.)

On the physical side, it would be an understatement to say that we have failed as stewards of God’s creation. Remember that God has mandated all of His creation including us to reproduce and to multiply. That is the original design of all creation. Meaning, for as long as it lives…a tree will always bear fruit to be another tree, a fish will continue to lay thousands of eggs, the atmosphere will continue to protect us from the sun’s rays. However, man – who was created in God’s own image, blessed with wisdom, understanding and abilities superior to everything has neglected his assignment of being responsible over the earth.

We have just celebrated Earth Day and I am so glad that people are now taking real steps towards the protection of our planet. I know that we need real action and not just another preachy article but maybe we ought to look deep inside if we have exerted efforts in being responsible over the earth. All of the calamities that we are experiencing cannot be only blamed to illegal loggers or to industrial companies. It is so easy to be a pollutant and we may be ignorant or unconscious pollutants ourselves.

It always helps to re-examine ourselves every time to check if we are doing the right things. Ignorance should never be an excuse anymore…with the information available everywhere, we should be more proactive in finding solutions and improvements in our everyday living. More importantly, we should take into heart our role as God’s stewards. The thing with stewardship is that the smallest things we do count. Even the simplest decision of pocketing your empty candy wrapper instead of throwing it on the road is as important as supporting the Greenpeace foundation. Go ahead and take a stand.