On May 13, we have the opportunity to make a difference in our country’s future by electing our nation’s leaders. By reflecting and talking with our friends and neighbors, we can help influence the way our people will vote. Our country needs men and women of integrity and independence, competence and courage, honesty and honor in our Senate so that they can take a stand on at least 7 of the critical issues that already confront us:
1. Challenge charter change. Congress converted into a Constituent Assembly can change the 1987 Constitution into a charter that will enable the consolidation of political dynasties through a federal system that will weaken the checks and balance in government. Independent-minded leaders and our people can make a difference in the fate of the basic law of the land.
2. Question the war on drugs. This so-called war has already cost thousands of lives, principally of the poor in our midst. We need to stop plans to further escalate this spiraling war without end, and rethink better ways of dealing with drugs as suggested by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. If war must be waged, then it must be the “War on Poverty and Inequality” so that we can help eliminate the causes of unrest and despair in our midst. We need brave leaders who will not succumb to the “herd mentality” and follow government’s policies because it is part of the “supermajority.”
3. Defend press freedom. Government’s harassment of independent media people and investigative reporters in entities such as Rappler, the PCIJ, and others has sent a “chilling effect” on the country’s press. We need leaders who will stand up for the rights of people and an independent free press.
4. Prevent threats against opinion makers who differ with the government. Government has attempted to silence voices raised against its policies. Thus, the deportation of Sister Patricia Fox, its insults against Bishop David and leaders who have dared to take public positions; the jailing of Senator Leila de Lima, and the ouster of Chief Justice Sereno. We need servant-leaders who can stand up, and say “Stop!”
5. Check efforts to unseat the vice president. Because of the Marcos-Duterte alliance, efforts to put Bongbong Marcos into the Office of the Vice President through the Presidential Electoral Tribunal could be intensified. The people have spoken, and leaders must not allow a betrayal of the people’s will.
6. Uphold our rights to the West Philippine Sea. Stop the encroachment by China into our waters and the entry of illegal Chinese workers in our industries. Relying on the international ruling in the country’s favor, we must reconsider and resist – if we must – China’s offer of loans and projects that in the end will cost the country its waters and resources.
7. Stop the moral meltdown in society. We need national leaders who will take a stand against a President who curses God, the Church, religious leaders, the UN, countries and individuals he differs with. Contrary to the President’s public pronouncements that “God is stupid,” ours is a “wise and loving God” who watches over us, our country and our people. Speak truth to power!
Prof Ed Garcia was a framer of the 1987 Constitution who worked with Amnesty International and International Alert, taught at UP and the Ateneo, and in post-retirement works on the formation of scholar-athletes at FEU-Diliman.