POSTSCRIPT / March 3, 2022 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Ash Wednesday: Illicit wealth is dust

Ash Wednesday yesterday reminded us of our mortality and of the futility of clinging to power and wealth amassed on earth because these worldly distractions will only decay with us when we finally return to dust.

The ashen cross that priests marked on the foreheads of the faithful in yesterday’s rites may be washed away after a day or two, but its message about the inevitability of death and the need for repentance should linger.

Ash Wednesday: You are dust, and to dust you shall return. Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP via Getty Images

When we stepped forward to receive the ash, we were actually saying we’re sorry for our sins, that we want to mend our ways, purify our hearts, and grow in holiness so we’ll be ready 40 days hence to celebrate Easter with deserved great joy.

(Easter Sunday falls on April 17, just three weeks before the May 9 national elections that will tell the world if we Filipinos have matured enough to choose true pagbabago [reforms] over politicians’ panggagago [fooling the people].)

From Christianity.com, we have lifted these relevant Lenten notes on humanity’s Creation, Curse, and Cry of Repentance:

* Our Creation: Genesis 2:7 – Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

* Our Curse: Genesis 3:19 – By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

* Our Cry of Repentance: Psalm 51:7 – 10 – Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

 Pray for beleaguered Ukrainians

Even as we pray for protection from the vultures circling above waiting to power-grab on Election Day, let us pray too for the suffering people of Ukraine (almost 72 percent of whom are Christians like most Filipinos) whose homeland has been invaded by Russian forces.

As the menfolk joined regular troops to fight the invaders after entrusting their wives and children to God and fellow Ukrainians fleeing to the safer border areas, mostly to the west, we join The Western Journal in asking readers:

“Pray for the people of Ukraine, for the fathers who have just tearfully said goodbye to their wives and children, perhaps for the last time, for the leaders of every country involved to humble themselves before God, for the followers of Christ on the ground tasked with shining his light in a dark time.

“Ultimately, we know that men with the power to destroy bodies — even thousands of bodies at once in an apocalyptic, vaporizing blast — will have to answer to him who can destroy the soul.

“When we don’t know what else to think about a horrific situation, we can always take comfort in the knowledge that every knee will one day bow to the ultimate world power.”

 Bets must explain party platforms

The May 9 national elections are just eight weeks away and we’re still arguing about the debating prowess of candidates (except those who were too scared to face scrutiny), the results of poll surveys, and the conflicting estimates of campaign rally crowds.

We have not started to compare the platforms, if any, of the standard-bearers, or to publicly examine in-depth whatever plans and programs they have for addressing the decades-old problems dragging down the country.

If only to show that the so-called platforms are the fruits of serious study by the candidates themselves and party leaders – and not just the submission of hired writing teams – standard bearers must personally present and defend them in a public debate or forum.

Platforms would not be a big campaign problem if parties were true bastions of political principles and not mere convenient way stations of politicians on their way to the presidency, jumping from one political vehicle to another that looked useful at the moment.

For instance, when the PDP-Laban Party was being managed by its founder Sen. Nene Pimentel, prospective members had to undergo a seminar on the party’s ideology. The party lost its ideological moorings after it was hijacked in 2016 by a group identified with President Duterte.

 Who checks poll computer system?

While everybody is engrossed with the elocution talents of campaign speakers on TV and social media, who is looking into the implementation of the Automated Election System established under RA 8436?

We’re just scratching the surface of the campaign for the presidency. When the estimated 65 million voters go to the poll precincts in May, who checks what actually goes on in the hidden homestretch of the race that could make or break the nation?

The voter spends several minutes marking his ballot. He then feeds the long form into the voting-scanning-counting machine, peers at a quick display acknowledging receipt of his ballot – and that’s the end of his involvement!

From there on, nobody sees what transpires in the electronic innards of the computers, the servers, and the rest of the complex network linked to each of some 100,000 voting-counting machines deployed nationwide.

Who are the partisan and neutral experts checking on the integrity of all the hardware and software – plus the critical peopleware – working together to ensure that the sovereign will of the electorate is determined, respected, and faithfully reported?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 3, 2022)

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