Wanted: Leaders who Care
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

The circus is coming to town. The Philippine national elections will be in May 2010. Already personalities who are interested to run for local and national offices are giving signals of their intention. To circumvent election laws against early campaigning, billboards showing the pictures of interested politicians are shown to greet them on their birthdays or congratulate them over some accomplishment. This establishes name recall, even if they do not say outright “Vote for me”.

Even for the ordinary folks, there is the anticipation that “Happy days are here again.” Money will go around and perhaps prime the economy. There will be money for campaign managers, road contractors, printers, sign-makers, and other jobs related with the campaign. Even for just a brief period, the campaigns will provide some economic stimulant.

Action starter: A believer is also a conscientious citizen.

As politicians plan their campaign, civil society groups and church groups will come together to plan the usual campaign for clean, honest and credible elections through voter’s education, poll-watching, and operation quick-count . This business as usual atmosphere will eventually inspire some people with good intentions and frustrated enough with the whole process, to enter the political arena, hoping they can do some good. Here is where professors, priests, pastors, businessmen, and civic leaders also decide to run for public office. They will join other wannabe’s such as actors, athletes, fashion models, and nuisance candidates. Already, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference is encouraging lay people of integrity to join the political arena in the hope that they win and institute reforms in the system.

We are in search of leaders who care. We identify with the hopes of the people of Israel to whom Jeremiah prophesied, “I will appoint shepherds who will take care of them. No longer will they fear or be terrified. No one will be lost” (Jer. 23:4). In the dark periods of their history, the people of Israel had their share of inept and corrupt kings. It was the prophets who kept their hope alive for deliverance by the coming of a messiah. Contrary to expectations of a military conqueror, the messiah came as a humble servant, a compassionate teacher and healer. The gospel tells, “As Jesus went ashore he saw a large crowd, and he had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk. 6:34).

All political aspirants claim to be leaders who care. All claim to be aspiring servant-leaders. Given our political situation in the Philippines, what kind of caring do we really need?

We need leaders who care primarily for the common good, rather than just the good of their families and clans. The common good in local terms would be the effective delivery of services to the citizenry such as peace and security, sanitation, health, education, energy, good roads and tansport.

In the national level, the common good may be defined as economic growth that leads to poverty reduction and equitable disribution of economic gains among the numerous poorer sector. In simple terms, this means an economy that generates jobs in the country, rather than one that is geared towards the encouragement of finding jobs abroad.

The common good in the political area will mean the use of power and influence not so much for squabbling among political groups but for cooperative endeavors to come up with laws that benefit the majority of people, to implement such laws judiciously, and to interpret such laws without prejudice. This calls for check and balances as well as cooperation among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

Fostering the common good in the cultural area will be along the line of educational and cultural policies that recognize the wealth of our diverse cultures. Despite our tribal differences, we belong to one nation. We share a common heritage and identity. We are one people who can live together in peace.

Our faith has something to do with all these spheres of life. Every religious believer is also a citizen. He practices the tenets of citizenry within the framework of his religious beliefs. Whatever be our religious belief, I think we can come to an agreement that the leaders we should choose should be those who are committed to the common good.