I must confess I was not exactly comfortable when I first heard the proposed name to our election campaign: “Vote God.” It sounded so out of this world and maybe even escapist. Yet, as the communication expert on the other side of the table handed over a piece of paper with these two words inscribed in it, I saw a man saw serenely convinced about the campaign name.
Then it slowly dawned on me. If Philippine elections and politics, as the Catholic bishops had written in 1997, “systematically exclude” our Christian values, then we indeed need to choose God and the way of God during elections. So: “Vote God.”
My appreciation for this choice has since deepened. These two words capture succinctly where we presently stand as a movement by mirroring where we have been and where we are moving. “Vote God” is about an election initiative with God as choice.
God, for sure, is not running for office and no single individual or even group can claim monopoly of God. But God is in all of us, through an embedded voice in the depths of human hearts. To obey this voice is to choose God and the way of God. The challenge is the many voices competing with this voice. It takes moral and spiritual discernment to sift through these voices; also moral, even spiritual, courage to choose good and reject evil.
“Vote God” takes its cue from the remarks of a woman who had attended the first CiDE (circles of discernment for elections) seminar in a Cebu parish last year. Earlier during the day, she expressed despondency over politicians and elections. Yet, at the end of the day she reversed her view: “We can still do something about elections. Next year, I will ask all the local candidates: ‘Do you have God fearing?’”
Wrong grammar, but correct hope.
When I was a little boy, I had the typical tendency to be choosy about my food. My father had a very effective way of dealing with this defect.
He would fire up my imagination by telling me that each food group actually played a critical role in the defense of my body. Rice granules, for instance, were foot soldiers ready to engage minute enemies. Eggs were aircraft carriers. Tomatoes were grenades. Bananas were submarines. So on and so forth.
His approach was indeed convincing. This was my first exposure to a communication plan that changed behavior because it entered the world of its target audience.
Dilaab is blessed with very committed volunteers from the world of communications. They advise us on how to focus on a single message and that less is more. They have been with us in our defining moments as a movement.
Jesus was a great communicator. He used images that people understood and he embodied their deepest aspirations.
Elections 2010 offer an opportunity to evangelize politics. A Dilaab communication plan will be released today as we call on people, both candidates and voters, to choose the way of God during elections.
We call it our “VOTE GOD” campaign.
Some people see a glass either half empty or half full. They are either pessimistic or optimistic. I am not one or the other. I see a glass waiting to be filled to be brim. I am gifted with hope.
But I am not the only one.
When one first meets Fr. Virgilio “Ver” Pedrano, one does not get the impression of a fiery, passionate preacher. He really is not one nor does he need to be one. He leaves the loud histrionics to others. He leads by example which is what really counts. “The modern world no longer listens to teachers. They listen to witnesses. If they do listen to teachers, it is because they also happen to be witnesses,” Paul VI said something to this effect.
Fr. Ver is a man, a priest, of hope. And his hope is contagious.
When he was about to experience his first election as parish priest of a mountain parish in Cebu, he thought to himself how sad it is that the dignity of many of his poor parishioners would once more be trampled upon as a result of vote buying and vote selling.
He decided to do something about it.
He talked with candidates and asked them not to buy votes nor do any of its variations. He talked with voters and asked them not to sell votes. He then preached about it during mass. “Those who will not sell or buy votes, God will reward. Those who will sell or buy votes, God will remember,” he put it simply.
He then organized a candidates’ forum facilitated by a Church-based organization. This ended with a covenant signing.
Some strange things began to happen, like local politicians campaigning and, when their rivals happened to pass by, asking the latter to join them and say something to the gathering crowd.
A few days prior to elections, the good priest donned his sutana and made the rounds of barangays where he gently reminded people of their campaign against vote buying and vote selling.
One woman “wholesaler” of votes saw Fr. Ver’s figure. She returned the bagful of money she had received earlier. In all, based on interviews with locals, vote buying was reduced by 50 percent.
Not bad. Hope indeed is contagious.