Our leaders are a mirror image of our voters | Inquirer Opinion

Our leaders are a mirror image of our voters


Exactly one year from this week, we will hold new elections. This early, I can fearlessly forecast the results. There will again be bewilderment, disgust, cursing, and vows to leave the Philippines for abroad, when the winners are declared. The disillusionment will come from the ranks of civil society, opposition supporters (the non-Duterte variety), and voters repulsed by the crop of politicians that now rule our country.

The candidates who will again win, will be entertainers, traditional politicians, scions of big business, and chameleon re-electionists who swiftly change loyalties as soon as a new lord occupies Malacañang. There may be one or two pink or yellow candidates who will manage to eke out slim wins in the Senate. However, the super majority of winning senators—and even more so, victorious congresspersons—will be the kind of politicians who view both the Senate and the House of Representatives as rubber stamps of the chief executive. As clear as the light of day, the same mold of candidates despised by citizens aspiring for change, will win in the 2025 elections.

Why will this happen? The same citizens who will be disillusioned by the results, will make it happen. They will be voting for a change of leaders, when they should have been working on a change in our voters. More appropriately, they should be working on transforming and effecting change in the lives of our voters. Our well-meaning electorate fail to realize one fundamental truth—our leaders are mirror images of our voters. Attempting to change the image in the mirror is futile. We must change the image that makes its reflection on the mirror. Only then can we change the image in the mirror.


The past presidential election has made this starkly clear for civil society. There was an unprecedented volunteering of time, lending of talents, and sharing of resources by an exceptional number of civil society members. Never have we seen an extraordinary number of people spending their own money to buy election campaign materials, and distributing or putting them up themselves. But all of these were aimed at changing the image in the mirror. All those efforts went for naught because they were not aimed at changing the lives of voters whose collective image is reflected in the mirror.How do we then effect change in our voters? It’s not a job for those impatient for change. It’s not a task for the selfish, callous, and self-righteous. It’s a mission for those who are willing to make sacrifices and selfless acts to help improve the lives of our voters. It’s a long and arduous undertaking that requires us to volunteer our time, lend our talents, and share our resources with the mass of voters who constitute the majority in our country and whose numbers define and create the image in the mirror. There are groups of individuals working without publicity to transform the lives of our electorate and, in the process, help change their aspirations for their country, and their choice of leaders who will help them achieve their aspirations.

There’s the Center for Community Transformation which has been quietly working to transform poor communities with livelihood trainings, microfinance, cooperatives, educational assistance, and spiritual formation. There’s the Onesimo foundations which provide halfway houses, education, and vocational training for street kids. There’s the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica’s College who have a “Streets to Strings” program where street kids and children from poor communities are trained to play the violin, viola, and cello, and those who persevere are bestowed scholarships.

There’s the Angat Buhay Foundation of former vice president Leni Robredo which is trying to create the largest volunteer network in order to bridge the willingness of the privileged to help with the need for assistance of the less privileged. Angat Buhay has been harnessing our people’s innate bayanihan spirit by empowering “Filipinos to become communities of active citizens.” The foundation supports programs on education, health and nutrition, disaster relief and rehabilitation, and community empowerment among our marginalized communities. Our country needs a sprouting of similar initiatives in thousands of our neighborhood communities, if we are to see change happening soon.

Some Robredo supporters are disappointed at her perceived lack of involvement in efforts to rebuild the ranks of the political opposition. But by putting up Angat Buhay, Robredo understands that the real need is to effect change in society. She comprehends that efforts to change the image in the mirror are futile, because the real need is to effect change in the lives of our electorate.


We need to effect change in the lives of our voters, and only by doing so will we change the image in the mirror. But first, we need change in ourselves.


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