EditorialUnity In Diversity

Unity In Diversity


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Ponciano Ligutom

The drama that unfolded in the Capitol last week showed that elections are really divisive.

Many would say that after the elections, contending parties can heave a sigh of relief because what is more important is the kapakanan of the community than that of the politicians.

That statement is farthest from the truth, especially when the election was hotly-contested, and victory or defeat is tainted with doubts, and many legal issues hurled between and among the contenders are not settled by the concerned authorities.

We need not rehash what had happened before, during, and after the election of May 9 this year, in the provincial contest.

The declaration by the Court that a certain candidate is a nuisance candidate — which was not reflected as such in the official ballots — created the irritant which resulted in the squabble between the two candidates who both claimed to be the rightful winners.

Discussing the merits of the case is not the intention of this column, as it may be beyond the competence of this columnist.

We are aware that politics and divisions are everywhere — in the family, association of parents in school, work, parishioners, community and civic clubs, including among church and religious leaders. In fact, Pope Benedict, before he resigned, talked about the “divisions that have disfigured the church”.

In one group chat on Messenger where we were exchanging notes about what happened at the Capitol, I commented that “Sana, the sense of what is just, fair, equitable, orderly, prudent, and the rule of law” shall prevail upon the personalities involved and their supporters.

If we listen to their respective counsels, it would seem that all sides are correct, and all the positions taken about the issue are valid.

I was of the idea then that the Supreme Court, as the court of last resort, be respected as the final arbiter, and that their inaction would mean that the latest order of constitutional or administrative bodies should be followed, even if questionable, and despite the fact that a number of issues may change the nature of the decision in question.

I also said that church leaders should not only request the community to pray and seek for God’s intervention to settle the tug-of-war but should also try to mediate or intervene for the interest of peace and public service.

I reasoned that in the recent hostage-taking involving the jailed lady Senator, she could have been dead by now if the police did not get “actively” involved in the resolution of the problem.

It is just fortunate that the sitting Governor, according to the Dumaguete Mayor, remained level-headed despite the prodding of his lawyer and some people around him. He decided to stick to his commitment to abide by the decision of the legal bodies of government, and respect the order of the Department of Interior & Local Government.

Inasmuch as the Supreme Court did not act on the petition for a temporary restraining order, yet recognized all petitions of parties involved in the election case, former Gov. Pryde Henry Teves voluntarily stepped down without conceding defeat (the case is still pending with the SC) so as not to stall public service, to prevent confusion among workers at the Provincial Capitol, and to diffuse tension that may turn into an undesirable situation.

The decision Henry Teves made after a tension-filled week was truly admirable, and came out more of an act of a Statesman than that of a traditional politician.

Can there be unity in diversity? I am reminded of a letter of Mahatma Gandhi to Milton Newbery Franz, a religious leader: “Do you not think that religious unity is to be had not by a mechanical subscription to a common creed but by all respecting the creed of each?”

Political parties are divided by principles and philosophies but can be united in the name of service, and can exist not for themselves but for the people they commonly serve.

Unfortunately, political parties in the Philippines have become parties of personalities and for convenience. Power remains in the hands of a few top leaders who do not consult ordinary members.

Ordinary constituents have no information about the internal workings of the party. Political butterflies continue to abound.

Unity in diversity is an ideal, and remains an elusive dream for us Filipinos. The differences can be on the basis of culture, language, ideology, religion, sect, class, ethnicity or political party.

These could be viewed as varieties that improve the society, and the nation as a whole. It should be a unity without uniformity, and diversity without fragmentation.

We could shift our focus from mere tolerance but towards a more complex unity based on an understanding in respecting our differences, while excluding none for being different.

Negrenses are known to be an educated people. The Capital City of our Province is referred to a University Town. Will it be easy for us to embrace tolerance and understanding without compromising the democratic ideals and principles of decency?

Pope Francis, during the Vatican II anniversary on Oct. 11, warned Catholics about the strategy of the devil who sows seeds of division among the faithful. “How many times have Christians preferred to be supporters of their own group, rather than servants of all; progressives and conservatives, rather than brothers and sisters; of the right and left, rather than of Jesus; standing up as guardians of the truth or soloists of novelty, rather than recognizing themselves as humble and grateful children of holy Mother Church?”

Let us take to heart what Gandhi reminded us: If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian.


Author’s email: pligutom@yahoo.com

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