Real democracy is dead in the Philippines. Leaders in the country have killed it — that is, if it ever existed at all. I’m not just referring to the political leaders. I’m referring in particular to religious leaders who endorse presidential candidates and oblige their flock to vote for whoever it is they endorse. Inquirer.net columnist Conrado de Quiros is so wrong in insisting that it is Gloria Arroyo who took away Filipino’s freedom. The real culprits are inside the church, using God as their ally.
The ballot is a sacred thing. It represents an individual’s freedom. Secret ballot is an essential element of a functioning democracy and a right to secret ballot is one of the basic political rights. To borrow the definition from the Net “The secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter’s choices in an election or a referendum are confidential. The key aim is to ensure the voter records a sincere choice by forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation or bribery.”
On the basis of testimonials made in the comment sections of this site, it’s fair to say that members of some religious organizations are being intimidated into voting for a candidate even if they don’t believe in the candidate their leaders have endorsed. One testimony even described how adherents who don’t comply with their religious elders’ instructions, get banished from the organization or excommunicated. This is quite disturbing. What’s more concerning is the fact that Filipinos have been used to this kind of practice to the point that they see religious endorsements as normal. It is further proof that Filipinos do not know how to handle democracy. Individuals are routinely denied their liberty to choose.
The questions we have to ask are, “Why do religious leaders need to endorse a candidate?” and “What’s in it for them?” It seems that they are not fully aware of the separation of the duties of the church and the state.
Blogger Benign0 pointed out how in the past several decades, the Iglesia ni Cristo has been sought after by presidential candidates who wish to secure the vote of their millions-strong flock. For the record, the ones that Iglesia ni Christo have endorsed ended up corrupt and branded as “evil”. What credibility then do they have in choosing someone who will occupy the highest position in the land? One commenter said that the religious leader only based his decision on whoever is popular and winnable. He does not really look at the political platforms of each candidate. This is very interesting indeed because I highly doubt that a religious leader would know anything about how to tackle the challenge, say, of reviving the economy.
This issue has been resolved by Jesus Christ once before:
Matthew 22:15-22: Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
In short, the government is in charge of governing the affairs of the state. As citizens of the state, we answer to whoever is in charge of the government. Whoever is in charge has to have the ability to run the state in the first place. Whoever is in charge should know how to handle the taxes he has collected. Whoever is in charge should be able to market the state to investors who will help generate income for the land. Whoever is in charge cannot simply promise not to be corrupt because he cannot guarantee that everyone who works for him will not be corrupt.
I suppose religious leaders find that it is their duty to find a leader for the country that will be close to their cause. This is not a guarantee though that who they choose is the right one. I say, this coming election, let each individual choose for themselves who they want to govern them and pay their taxes to. Casting their ballot is one of the few things every individual has control of. That right to choose should not be taken away. After the election is over, the individual will have very little or no control over what the government is doing with their taxes.