“Conviction, courage and compassion”
I started working in politics at the age of 23. Since then, politics has become an important part of who I am and how I look at society. From politics, I learned not only the power and breadth, but the meaning and magnanimity of leadership. I have seen how much good politics has empowered the leaders who have helped their communities thrive, and I have also seen how bad politics has allowed the corrupt to bring about the collapse of their own communities. But despite the many failures and frustrations that accompany it, I have never given up hope that politics can be a powerful platform for effecting positive change. In fact, I can’t think of a more meaningful way to change society than politics. In December last year, the House of Representatives passed on third reading Bill 7836, which would hopefully raise the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16. Many of us probably don’t know that in a country where you have to be at least 18 to vote and 17 to legally drive a car, the law presumes that a 12-year-old is quite capable of consenting to sexual relations. The age of sexual consent is important because it also sets the age for determining legal rape. For statutory rape, the child only needs to prove two things: his age and that the sexual act took place. As a result, under our existing laws, sex with a child as young as 12 is not automatically considered child rape. I could still remember that afternoon when the proposed measure drafted by the representative of the Tingog party list, Yedda Marie K. Romualdez, Bill 7836 passed third reading. I have seen some of our child protection advocates congratulate each other on this important milestone. Everyone was moved and with tears in their eyes. Then they reminded me that it took over 20 years for this bill to pass, even in the lower house. Their smiles made me realize that the hard work was well worth it. The Senate has yet to pass its version of House Bill 7836 to make this bill finally part of the law of the land. While the delay has not been very encouraging, we remain hopeful that every Filipino child will receive the most comprehensive protection they deserve. It is an example of how politics can be a powerful platform for effecting positive change. But positive change is not something only politicians are supposed to achieve. It is a mission that many of us young Filipino leaders are called to embrace – to discover the opportunity to create positive change – through our careers and professions, through our positions and professions, and in our own homes and communities. Three lessons that my own leadership experience in politics taught me: conviction, courage and compassion.
First, the conviction. No one can be a credible leader without the clarity of their convictions. Our aspirations for what and how our society should be first and foremost firmly rooted in your hearts. The clarity of his conviction allows a leader to communicate his vision more passionately, so that others can be inspired to adopt the same vision for themselves. The strength of his conviction will strengthen steadfastness and consistency as well as patience and perseverance, especially in the face of daunting challenges. Second, courage. A leader must have the courage to challenge the status quo for the better. Fueled by beliefs, it’s important for a leader to be courageous enough to steer a course beyond the familiar and the predictable. Courage requires honesty to accept your limits. But more importantly, it takes unwavering faith to believe in better possibilities. In this way, a leader inspires others to act even in times of doubt and uncertainty. Third, compassion. A true leader is motivated by sincere compassion, by his willingness to put himself in other people’s shoes. Leadership cannot be built by theoretical guesswork, but only by immersing yourself in the harsh realities of everyday life. While a good leader should already have a more empathetic understanding of the world around them, an even better leader should always be ready to learn. While a good leader communicates well, an even better leader is always ready to listen. Why a good leader effectively motivates others, an even better leader walks with others by supporting the demands of leadership. This pandemic may be one of the worst crises our generation has to go through, but I have reason to believe it is one of the best times to be a leader. Far from our familiar comforts, we have learned to determine the why rather than the how of leadership. Living in uncertain times has taught us to be courageous in order to take risks and go beyond the familiar. In these days when life has become even more difficult to say the least and last in our society, the more we should be moved by our sincere compassion for others. When times are uncertain and schedules uncertain, we find the courage to believe that although these difficult times will soon arrive, we must come out stronger and better. Let’s not forget, however, that leadership doesn’t always mean doing the gigantic and the monumental. Being more is not measured by the magnitude of what we do, but rather by the meaning of why we do things. The passage of the landmark Bill increasing the Age of Sexual Consent occurred not without the enormous attention and study carried out by the legislative team of Tingog Party-List. But just as important are the small but meaningful actions that helped build confidence that not only was it a worthwhile task, but despite all the setbacks in the past, it was something we can accomplish together. It all counted: the effort of listening to our child protection workers, the reassuring gestures that made them understand that this was an important issue for us and even the friendship that made our collaboration even more rewarding. . In this way, our little acts of kindness made us realize a long awaited dream for all Filipino children. My own experience working for the passage of Bill 7836 has taught me to never lose sight of the simple things that matter most in life and leadership. Dare to make a difference even if not everyone will understand. Learn to understand your beliefs more clearly. Lead with relentless courage in your heart. Always live with compassion and charity every day.
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