Time to go back to our beginnings

Blog,Featured April 6, 2013 11:36 AM
Atty. Christian Monsod

Atty. Christian Monsod

The question must have crossed your minds as it has crossed mine on occasions such as this the past twenty-three years–why am I here?

I know that you are all giving up many things to be here today and in volunteering for LENTE. You are not here for the money, because you are not getting any. It is not the arm-twisting or persuasive powers of the organizers, although those certainly helped.  But I think you are here because you care enough about this country to know that it cannot afford a turbulent and controversial elections. The May elections is about restoring the credibility of the electoral process, regardless of who wins. It’s about addressing the increasing distrust by many of our countrymen of the political system and of democracy itself as a means to a better life for all.

But I submit that if democracy has not changed the social, political and economic landscape of our country as much as we had hoped at EDSA, it should occur to us that maybe the problem is not that democracy is not suitable to developing countries but that we have not nurtured it or are not practicing it, neither the administration nor the opposition, but more importantly, nor civil society itself of which we are all a part.

The fact is that after we brought our nation to greatness at EDSA by guarding the ballot as if it was the most sacred blessing in our lives, after the first peaceful transfer of power in 1992, we folded up our banners and went back to our personal interests or sectoral advocacies. And as we went our separate ways with our separate causes, we lost something of the dream of a nation and the significance of our interconnected lives.

You are here because you know it is time to go back to our beginnings. You are here because you want to put things right in our country. LENTE is our way as lawyers to contribute to this great enterprise called nation-building. And I am proud to be a part of it.

As lawyers, we know that the heart of the Constitution is social justice, not only in Article XIII, but in all the provisions distributed in other articles. And the definition of social justice, aside from the immortal words of Justice Laurel that we all memorized in college, the definition in simple operational terms is—the diffusion of wealth and political power for the common good. Elections is about the diffusion of political power. Elections is the fundamental building block of any democracy. Beyond the brilliance we muster in arguing a case or the shrewd maneuverings in the courtroom, there is something noble and ennobling in the practice of law when it gives substance to the freedom of choice and to equal opportunity to public office.

Today, you will have workshops not only on election law, particularly on canvassing, but, you will also do something else. You will be familiarizing yourselves with the operations side of elections. Contrary to the perceptions of many, elections is not only a legal concern, it is also a procedural problem. And since elections is a process, procedures partake of the substance of the right of suffrage.

Elections, too, is a behavioral and systemic problem. And it is in the cumulative effect of many safeguards and the efficient and effective handling of the minutest details that can make or unmake elections. And if you get nothing out of participating in Lenten except to know more about the nuts and bolts of elections, then it will be worth your while and will serve you well into the future. LENTE as you know is being tried for the first time and hopefully will become a permanent part of the system of citizen watch in every election.

As trainers who are expected to multiply yourselves more than a hundred-fold by inspiring and training others, you will determine the future of LENTE and of elections. But you will not be alone, even when you or the volunteers you train many feel alone in the middle of a solitary watch on the third, fourth or fifth night of the canvassing. You can be assured that there are other volunteers such as yourselves in PPCRV, CBCP-NASSA, NAMFREL, who are just as earnest and just as tired in the frontlines, each playing a role in making the elections a meaningful step in nation-building.

If indeed democracy, according to Vaclav Havel, is the unfinished story of human aspirations, this is not the last time we will meet. We shall see one another again, hopefully to celebrate, after we are done with the 2007 elections, and the next elections after that and the next, until we get the country we deserve. Patriotism, it is said, is not the sudden and frenzied outburst of emotion but the quiet and steady dedication of a lifetime. If we do our part in the coming elections, we may yet be truly deserving of this blessed nation.

 

Speech delivered Atty. Christian Monsod at the LENTE National Training of Trainers
14 April 2007 Ateneo Human Rights Center

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