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Verse 18 of the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 3) which is the gospel reading for Dec. 13 says: “Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.” In Bible study or Bible reflection groups, it is the standard that we must learn how to ask questions in order for us to understand the texts of the Sacred Scriptures.

Let us begin by asking: What is it that Jesus Christ preached to the people? In this verse, Luke wrote that Jesus exhorted them in many ways and preached the good news. This means that in many other ways, Jesus preached only the good news.

Bible scholars tell us that when we talk of the good news in reference to the Scriptures, it pertains to Jesus Christ as the good news so much so that what Jesus preached at that time was his relationship with God. This is the reason He left his heavenly throne and came down from heaven to perform his mission on earth, and why He needed to go through his passion, death and resurrection.

Thus, it presupposes that all of us Christians whose mandate is to preach the gospel are to preach no less than Jesus Christ Himself, his presence in our lives, our relationship with him as the bridge between us and the Father. And most importantly, we should preach what Jesus did and continues to do to qualify us to take our place in the room that has been prepared for us in the heavenly mansion.

In this particular period in our lives in the Philippines, we are about to choose the successor of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III whose term of office will end on June 30, 2016.

We need to go through what is called prayerful discernment to guide us in making the right choice on May 9, 2016 when the more than 54 million Filipinos, including qualified overseas Filipino voters, go to the polls. Such discernment is also helpful when US voters elect their President in November 2016.

Discernment is different from making a choice. When a person makes a choice, he simply chooses from either good or bad. But in prayerful discernment, we have already set aside that which we believe is not good and we discern to choose from two or three good choices. Why? Because when we go through prayerful discernment, we allow the Holy Spirit to move in on us, fill us and reign in us to guide us in arriving at a choice that will please God.

In the Philippines, there are five aspirants for President in the May 2016 polls. They are Vice President Jojo Binay, Senator Grace Poe, Senator Miriam Santiago, former Senator and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Each candidate has expressed the desire to serve and make life better for the more than 102 million Filipinos. Because you cannot elect all five, we as voters must go through discernment to enable us to choose wisely and spiritually.

Binay has the inside track when it comes to campaign organization, but he is beset with problems related to a Senate investigation that appears to be a demolition job. Grace Poe who topped the 2013 senatorial elections with record 20 million plus votes immediately jumped to the top of the ratings when she announced her candidacy, a testimonial to the adulation of the people for movie icon Fernando Poe Jr. Her campaign, however, has since been hounded by issues related to her citizenship and residency.

Miriam Santiago used to be a contender in previous presidential elections, but public interest has dipped somewhat as she is at present recovering from Stage 4 cancer. In the academe sector, she continues to enjoy a high level of support. Former Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas may be the most qualified for the presidency but he lacks mass appeal mainly due to gaffes in his public relations and media campaigns. Finally, we have Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who caught wide attention from the people suffering from the traffic gridlock that has paralyzed the National Capital Region.

Duterte presents himself as a leader who can solve the country’s ills, especially crimes, by the way he solved the high crime rate in Davao City.

But Davao City and the Philippine are two different things. The high crime rate in Davao in the 80s was due to the presence of leftist elements and drug syndicates. That scenario was exclusive to Davao. It is a unique experience in that peace may have been achieved but at the expense of thousands of lives lost in the hands of the so-called Davao Death Squad. This has been documented by Amnesty International.

This brings us to the question: Can good governance be achieved through extra-judicial killings? (To be continued in next issue)