MANILA, Philippines-Don't know whom to vote for among the national and local candidates in next year's elections? Then let the words of Pope Francis be your guide.
The Pope has laid out criteria for choosing a new set of elected officials, according to a new advocacy group led by musicians Jim Paredes and Noel Cabangon, Bases Conversion and Development Authority CEO Arnel Casanova and civil society leader Marian Pastor Roces.
The citizen's group called Kayang-Kaya Kababayan (KKK), which was formed immediately after Pope Francis' visit, took special note of what the Pontiff said-that more than ever, given the "scandalous inequality" in society, the "political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good."
Cabangon said the Pope's words could indeed be used as a checklist against which to measure the candidates, since Francis also talked about the need to go to "the peripheries" to listen to the poor, learn from them and appreciate their wisdom.
The Pope likewise delved on the importance of the increased participation of women in issues, and how women looked at issues from a different perspective than men and thus this should be taken into serious consideration.
He likewise talked about the need for peace and respect for the rights of the marginalised.
With these words as a guide, Cabangon believes Filipinos would be able to elect the kind of leaders they truly deserve.
"We should perhaps stop thinking of just voting for the lesser evil. Why not think about electing the better choice?" Cabangon said.
Casanova told the Inquirer the pastoral visit of Pope Francis left behind a palpable "energy" among Filipinos that could ideally be translated into positive action in next year's general elections.
He said it would be such a waste if the words of Pope Francis had just fallen on deaf ears.
Roces said the group wanted to start a "national conversation" on the issues Pope Francis raised during his visit, which ranged from poverty to income equality, indigenous peoples' rights, peace in Mindanao, corruption, climate change and gender equality.
"While we are all doing our sectoral work, our neighborhood work, we also have to think in terms of a national conversation, that we all have to be part of something bigger," said Roces.
In a statement, the KKK said the Pope's visit was "another massive turning point" for Filipinos, as over the four days the Filipinos' innate sense of order and common identity were brought to the fore.
"We want to keep that energy, inspire the belief that each one of us can have a positive impact. Not all of us can be mayors, but you can do something in your own home or neighborhood.
You have to add your own pixel to the bigger picture," Paredes said.