Philippines: Moving Toward Civil Commitment

Two thousand attend a forum on active citizenship training, promoted by a Manila parish just before local elections.

Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is a megalopolis with more than 11,000,000 inhabitants. It has been a city of enormous social upheaval, which for years has been fighting for fair and equitable democracy, following decades of dictatorship that has only increased the gap between rich and poor.

Parishes are often involved in various social projects in favor of the disadvantaged. They also feel the need of training in civic involvement for people who wish to see the country reconstructed in a way that will make it more equal.

The Parish Movement – whose members are animated by the spirituality of the Focolare as they serve in parishes – has been running such a social training program for some time through the pro-motion of solidarity projects, food and housing programs, as well as civic and political training programs that are open to everyone.

On the occasion of the election of the Mayor and deputy mayor of Manila, St. Roque’s Parish de-cided to hold an educational training forum on citizenship, politics and democratic participation.

The forum was held on April 12, 2013 and was designed together with the Vicariate. It involved 48 parishes of the diocese of Manila as well as the Minister of Public Affairs. Preparations began in the interest groups last February. There they were able to draw up a program, invitations and presentations. Two thousand people took part in the forum of which 1400 came from different parishes. And there was also the participation of non-governmental organizations like the Transportation Association, the Sellers Federation, government deputies, ecumenical leaders, teacher groups and members of the business community.

The candidates for mayor, deputy mayor and councilors presented their plans for the city of Manila over the next 3 years. This was followed by questions and answers in an atmosphere of re-spect and trust. The style of attacking one’s opponent as an election campaign strategy gave way to an experience of brotherhood from which the many different political affiliations came out satisfied.

One of organizer commented: “I was afraid it might be beyond our strength, but it turned out a success.” Among the final impressions one person remarked: “I understood the candidates’ plans and the values that inspire them. Thank you for what you’ve done here.”



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