Speech/Homily of His Excellency Most Rev. Ramon B. Villena, D.D., Bishop of
NAMFREL 30th Anniversary Thanksgiving Mass,
October 26, 2013
National Shrine of the Divine Child, La Salle Green Hills, Mandaluyong City
NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.3, No.3
Congratulations to NAMFREL,
congratulations to us. NAMFREL is not just a name, it is a story, it
is history, made up of people abounding in love of GOD and country,
with deep commitment, undying spirit of sacrifice, and even fearless
martyrdom. We are gathered together to celebrate the 30th founding
anniversary of NAMFREL, our anniversary.
The motto and mantra of NAMFREL, “It is better to light a candle,
than to curse the darkness” is a recurring refrain that inspires
every one of us who have volunteered through the years through thick
or thin, in danger and in peace, in abundance and in want and many
Remembering the history of NAMFREL, is remembering the story of each
of us who have journeyed with the organization since its inception.
Am sure all of us have our own story to tell. Our celebration this
afternoon is enriched by our own experiences and stories, told and
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of NAMFREL is to tell her story
like telling our own.
Please allow me to share with you my short NAMFREL story.
As a young Bishop, I was assigned in Mindanao for more than 3 years.
They were the challenging years that made me stronger, more
committed and more convinced that we needed then to act and move to
liberate us from the many fears that froze us and knots that bound
us as a nation, as a people. The atmosphere that prevailed then was
cramped and suffocating. There were two kinds of 'air' that
prevailed in the atmosphere. One was the seemingly 'free air' that
the powers-that-be were inhaling; the other was a 'stale air' that
suffocated many of the voiceless, fearful Filipinos.
I am blessed and privileged to serve as an active volunteer, as
Diocesan Chair since the beginning. The fame in me has begun when
the Citizens National Electoral Assembly (CNEA) was born.
The seed of Filipino patriotism has been planted in every volunteer
and up to this day, we remember those who have nurtured this seed
with their own blood. We remember our own volunteer in the Diocese
of Bayombong, Gerry Tapas, of good memory, of Belance, Dupax del
Norte, who was killed during election. He is just one of the NAMFREL
heroes we are remembering and dedicating this anniversary. The
crucial snap presidential election of 1986 was one defining moment
for NAMFREL. The event was the start of the writing of the new leaf
in the history of the Philippines.
People and events have stamped the indelible mark of NAMFREL in the
Philippines, especially in our politically history.
This was the spark that lighted the candle, the light of Love. The
simple light blended with the Light of God, has become a fame of
hope for and in our country.
The light that has been started will continue since this light is
now inside the heart of each NAMFREL volunteer.
This year, as we celebrate the year of faith, is a ftting blend with
the feast we are commemorating today.
Indeed, no one and no amount of trial and challenges can extinguish
the light of NAMFREL because it is in confdence with the light of
God, the light of FAITH.
May God continue to pour His blessing in each of us. MABUHAY,
+RAMON B. VILLENA, D.D
Bishop, Diocese of Bayombong
October 26, 2013
When I was assigned as Auxilliary bishop of Tagum in the 1980's, my
passion for justice and peace was awakened. It was there that I was
faced with life's realities and struggles of our brothers and
sisters. As my memory tells me, it was there that I started to
involve myself more passionately to fight for the rights of our
people. It was also in Tagum that I started to be actively involved
in the mission and works of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free
Elections or NAMFREL.
During that time, the process of election in Tagum was not that free
and peaceful. Just like what is happening still today, politicians
were employing all sorts of means just to win the election.
Unfortunately, this kind of dirty politics leads to nothing but the
sacrifice of precious life and relationships. How can I forget the
violent and regrettable death of Ireneo Magbanua? He was a NAMFREL
volunteer of San Vicente, Davao del Norte. He was violently killed
on account of protecting the sanctity of the ballot.
||When I was
assigned to the Diocese of Bayombong, I carried with me my
advocacy and passion for peace and justice. Every election
time, as their bishop and pastor, I commit in my capacity to
fight for the sanctity of the will of the people. I always
seek the partnership and assistance of the NAMFREL. In my
diocese, there are many NAMFREL volunteers who give
themselves to protect and guard the votes of the people.
There are many who are willing to sacrifice their time,
effort and talent for the sale of the ballot. How can I also
forget one NAMFREL hero in my diocese whose life he
dedicated, all for the sake of the people's vote. His name
is Tanas. He is a member of the indigenous tribe in the
Municipality of Dupax del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya. His death
paved the way to the search and proclamation of truth.
Since my early years as a bishop until now, I believe and
continue to support the mission and ministry of the National
Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections. In NAMFREL, I am a
witness to countless ordinary citizens who are willing to
sacrifice their time and life all for the sake of upholding
the will of the people. Yes, I can never forget Rodrigo
Ponce, Jaime Alcala, Fructoso Javines, Alexis Parao, and
many other martyrs and heroes who are willing to volunteer
to die for the sake of this country. We can also never
forget all other countless fellow Filipinos who are
volunteering to join us in this noble task of protecting our
votes every election times. Let us remember, they are
volunteers. It means to say, they are never paid. But in
their humble and ordinary means, they offer their lives for
the sake of this country and its citizens. Is this not their
way of lighting their one little candle. From these heroes,
martyrs and many other volunteers, we can never stumble in
the dark. We can never curse darkness... but as Filipinos,
we light our own little candle to guide us on our way
towards peace, justice and prosperity.
As we gather today to celebrate the
anniversary of NAMFREL, we remember in a special way all our
brothers and sisters who are brave and generous enough to light
their candles every election time. We remember our heroes and
martyrs. We remember their humility to dedicate themselves freely
without expecting for any returns. May their humble death,
volunteerism and passion inspire and enflame us to continue to light
even just one little candle than to curse the darkness.
Throughout its existence to protect and defend the Filipino people's
will, NAMFREL and the many unnamed volunteers teach us all the value
of humility. From its beginnings, from the sense of volunteerism,
even to its process of securing votes, NAMFREL is propelled and
fortified by humility. Because of this, I believe that the good Lord
is at our side... He is with us in our noble task and mission. He
sustains us to live this long for the good and benefit of our
Filipino people. NAMFREL is the mission of every citizen... much
more, this is the movement of our poor people. As such, the Lord is
with us because as the Psalmist reminds us, “The Lord hears the cry
of the poor.” NAMFREL will always go along the history of our
country as long as there are humble volunteers and supporters like
you and I.
As we continue our joyful anniversary celebrations, may the lessons
of our gospel and also of NAMFREL keep us rooted in our beginnings.
May it enable us to be grounded as we remember all those ordinary
Filipinos. May it enable us to be grounded as we remember all those
ordinary Filipinos who sacrificed their precious lives for the
sanctity of the ballot. May it always keep us humble. As the gospel
warns us, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the
one who humbles himself will be exalted!” This is best expressed in
the motto of NAMFREL: “It is better to light a candle, than to curse
the darkness!” It is only in humility that we can truly light our
candles... it is only in humility that we can volunteer and commit
ours lives to fight for our people's will... it is only in humility
that we can truly be exalted in our noble mission and task as
defenders of the people's will!