Unity for peace

The Philippine Star - - OPINION -

In Que­zon City, an in­ter­faith march for unity was held and doves sym­bol­iz­ing peace were re­leased. In Pan­gasi­nan, white bal­loons were meant to de­liver the same mes­sage.

As the of­fi­cial elec­tion pe­riod started, sev­eral can­di­dates gath­ered yes­ter­day to­gether with of­fi­cials of the Com­mis­sion on Elec­tions, Depart­ment of the In­te­rior and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, the mil­i­tary and po­lice as well as civic groups. They com­mit­ted to work to­gether to make the midterm elec­tions in May hon­est, or­derly and peace­ful. Can­di­dates who at­tended the gath­er­ing signed bill­boards dis­play­ing an “in­tegrity pledge.”

Per­haps more can­di­dates will ex­press the same com­mit­ment. Armed vi­o­lence and ac­cu­sa­tions of poll fraud have marred ev­ery elec­toral ex­er­cise for prac­ti­cally all po­si­tions in this coun­try. Vi­o­lence has be­come so com­mon­place that hav­ing about 80 poll-re­lated mur­ders in an elec­tion sea­son is con­sid­ered nor­mal. The fail­ure to catch mur­der­ers has bred im­punity and un­der­mined the demo­cratic ex­pres­sion of the peo­ple’s will.

Law en­forcers have shown that catch­ing mur­der­ers is pos­si­ble if they put their minds to it. The speedy ar­rest of sus­pects in the killing of Ako Bi­col partylist rep­re­sen­ta­tive Rodel Ba­to­cabe il­lus­trated this.

The groups that gath­ered yes­ter­day for the so-called unity walk for peace should in­clude mem­bers of the ju­di­ciary, so that judges can com­mit to a speedy ad­ju­di­ca­tion of cases re­lated to elec­tion vi­o­lence.

Lit­i­ga­tion in the coun­try’s worst case of elec­tion vi­o­lence – the 2009 mas­sacre of 58 peo­ple in Maguin­danao – con­tin­ues to crawl along. If it takes a decade to re­solve a murder case, politi­cians could be will­ing to take the risk and re­sort to as­sas­si­na­tion, if it means per­ma­nently elim­i­nat­ing their ri­val and keep­ing their hold on power.

The com­mit­ments made yes­ter­day to unite for peace are com­mend­able. Now the mes­sage must be spread and the com­mit­ment trans­lated into ac­tion. In ev­ery elec­tion, Filipinos as­pire for HOPE, or hon­est, peace­ful and or­derly elec­tions. It’s time to go beyond hop­ing.

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