How to promote unity without rewarding opportunism
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-11-26

Chiara Lubich’s Focolare Movement is an inspiration that has now established its presence in over 180 countries. The Focolare is welcomed even in non-Catholic countries and among these countries are Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and other states where Catholic missionaries would think twice before entering and evangelizing.

Close as the Focolare is to the Vatican – the late Pope John Paul II gave them a big hall in the Papal summer residence in Gastelgandolfo where many Focolare events are now held – this has not aroused the distrust of non-Catholic states. On the contrary, the Focolare is very much welcomed.

This is because the mission of the Focolare is not to evangelize Catholic doctrine but to promote the unity that Jesus Christ wished for mankind. “That all may be one” was what Christ was quoted as saying in the Gospel.

The Focolare is also known as the Movement for unity. In the Focolare, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and all other faiths are engaged in reciprocal love following Lubich’s exhortation that we must delve into the many things that unite us and disregard the few that divide us.

When the Vatican actively promotes inter-religious dialogues, you will likely see the Focolare actively participating in the endeavor. In that regard, the Focolare is badly needed in our country where we are very deeply divided.

When you have a case of Filipinos who feel that they are Cebuanos first before they are Filipinos or Ilocanos who feel that they are Ilocanos first before they are Filipinos and so forth and so on – then you’ll realize that we do have a serious national problem. We are thus nothing more than a conglomeration of tribes which is exactly how the Europeans found us.

Realistically, when we consider the magnitude of our country’s social, economic and political problems, the next leader who will succeed Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) in 2010 will need to unite Filipinos first before he can accomplish anything substantial and sustainable.

Meaningful reform can only be achieved after unity is attained. Otherwise, we will return to the cycle of conflicts that derailed progress in our country. When somebody wins the highest public office in the land, the opposition immediately embarks on eroding his political base. Instead of national reconstruction, energies are channeled into mutual extermination.

Most unfortunate for the Filipino people is that when our politicians do finally manage to unite, often times it is to protect their mutual selfish interest and not to promote the public interest. We saw a lot of that in the present GMA dispensation.

The phenomenal rise of Senator Noynoy Aquino as the ‘dominant brand’ in the 2010 presidential election offered hope that Filipinos can now unite behind a credible, honest leadership. Noynoy’s impressive ratings in the SWS and Pulse Asia surveys (forget those other surveys that peddle results quite different from what the SWS and Pulse Asia released) could result in an overwhelming mandate with which he can overhaul a morally bankrupt system.

Otherwise, Noynoy will be forced to accommodate political coalitions just to be able to govern. But as seen with past coalitions which were nothing more than political whores time sharing on beds where they make their loot - there is hardly any room for change or reform. Governance is reduced to surviving and finishing one’s term.

In the Focolare experience, it has long been established that unity is best accomplished when people are united behind a higher principle. Unity becomes pointless when the good guys unite with the bad guys in doing bad. Unity is useful and meaningful when the once bad guys are convinced to join the good guys in doing good. In fact, the essence of reform is in making people who are doing something bad to start doing something good.

Political activity is all about generating new adherents to promote and undertake one’s political cause. New political adherents can come from a new generation of voters and political workers or from those who can be convinced to switch from what they were promoting previously. What is important is that the new political adherents are there to promote the cause and not to compromise or to lessen its essence, scope and impact.

Fidel V. Ramos was once frowned upon by some Cory diehards when he jumped over to the Yellow Army. But Fidel V. Ramos helped restore and then defended our democracy when coup plotters threatened to return us to a new Dark Age. That is a case of a positive conversion.

Fidel V. Ramos was doing great and succeeded Cory as president in 1992. But then he got Joe de Venecia as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Joe then founded the so-called “Rainbow Coalition” which Ramos himself described as a coalition of non-virgins. That is a case of a negative conversion. People empowerment gave way to political compromise.

We must allow Noynoy Aquino the elbow room with which to form his broadest possible political base. If you have faith in his leadership, then you must give him the benefit of the doubt that his new adherents are there to support his reform agenda and not to take advantage of him for their own selfish interests.

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