by Francis N. Tolentino
“It is the common good which makes republics great… If citizens are guided by good passions like love of country, compassion, and love of justice, they are likely to vote wisely.” (Viroli, How to Choose a Leader, 2016).
“Vote wisely.” It’s a cliché every election, regardless of whether it is for the barangay, local, or national level. Every voter is urged to select the candidate who he or she believes will champion the people’s rights and promote the good of the community. Today, the Filipino electorate will once again exercise their right to suffrage, with much hope that those now pledging to serve and lead communities towards positive change will remain faithful to their promises once elected to office.
The need for virtuous servant leaders for our local communities has never been more pressing than now. Righteous leadership, while having been repeatedly emphasized as a key element in winning the people’s trust and cooperation, is a quality that seems to be rarely found in leaders today. Leaders are like drivers, or boatmen, or pilots. They steer the wheel of the community vessel and ensure that its passengers arrive at their desired destination, safe and happy. Similar to entrusting your life while in transit to a good and skilled driver, communities need good hearted leaders to whom they can entrust the life of the community as they tread the road to development and solidarity.
Those who will be elected to office through the polls we conduct today will be the captain of the barangay’s ship, so to speak, in the next three years. His or her program of government will surely be praised or criticized depending on how his or her initiatives will impact the lives of the people who helped him claim his seat. While every elected official is made to undergo a certain training or seminar once officially installed, I believe that these leaders should also be educated on servant leadership and good governance. To lead a community will surely present insurmountable challenges. The character displayed by the leader while meeting these challenges will greatly determine the path that the community will take under his or her watch. It is therefore paramount that standards of character for leaders are set high to ensure that they will lead not only effectively, but more so, virtuously.
As this day unfolds, with all its drama and humor, we can only pray and hope that the people chose their champion well. Bottom line here is that the electorate hold in their hands the power and the responsibility to choose good and Godly leaders. To desire community advancement entails as well the fulfilment of our obligation to select those that are most capable, as well as those that are most reputable.