APRIL 8, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - As Christendom celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ today and the salvation of mankind from sin, President Arroyo has also vowed to bring new life into the country, and give "social payback" to the people.

In an Easter message delivered in Baguio City, the President said the resurrection of Christ has always signified that man could always "rise after every fall, stronger and more inspired to live anew – assured as we are of the redemption from our sins."

"The same goes with our national aspiration of bringing back to our people the benefits of this growing economy in a nurturing environment of peace and security for the Filipino people," the President said.

Using her "8 by ’08" battle cry, the President said she intends to provide more employment, housing, education and food for the poor, a stronger peso, and more investments into the country.

With the critics of the administration relentlessly questioning the legitimacy of her election as well as her targets for the economy, the President reiterated her appeal for unity in order to bring about her plans for the country.

"May this Holy Week invigorate the Filipino family so that we could be more united and filled with faith and strong determination as we endeavor to achieve the dream of a brighter tomorrow, believing that we can achieve a better and more meaningful life for the Filipino people," the President said.

Vice President Noli de Castro said the real message of hope that comes with Easter is the realization that "a loving Father" is with us in "all of life’s challenges and trials."

"May we also strive to become instruments of hope to others, especially those who have long given up, so that they, too, may see the light of day when we can finally be free from the bondage of poverty, inequality and injustice," he said.

De Castro added, "Let us therefore inspire and help one another so that we can value and cherish life in emulation of our Lord and Savior. This way, we would spend every moment of our lives as though we exist not for ourselves alone but for others as well."

Former President Joseph Estrada, on the other hand, called on the Filipino people to vote wisely in the May elections.

In his Easter message, Estrada also urged the public to learn lessons from the past and choose the right candidates.

"We must bear these lessons in our minds and hearts as our nation counts the days before the electoral exercise of May 14, 2007. As Filipinos, we shall be tasked with choosing our next leaders for the coming years, hoping that we make the right choices so that our country can move forward along a road of genuine progress, peace and prosperity for all," said Estrada in his Easter message entitled "The Virtue of Humility, the Nobility of Sacrifice."

"But as Christians, we must look on the coming elections as the path provided for the healing of our nation, a healing from the lies and deceit which have caused so much discord and disunity among our people," Estrada also said.

The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), the largest organization of evangelical churches in the country, voiced a similar sentiment.

The PCEC said after the Holy Week people should continue making preparations for the coming elections.

PCEC national director Bishop Efraim Tendero said, "As we prepare to participate in the coming elections, let us allow the Holy Spirit and the standard of God’s Word to guide us as we vote into office the men and women who will lead our people in the fear of the Lord. Let us not be swayed by empty promises and the prospect of easy gain."

But the Catholic Church leaders steered decidedly out of politics, emphasizing, instead, the Gospel message of the truth of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said in his Easter message that "the gift of Easter is what Christ gives to whoever He appears. Peace be with you, the peace which enables even a doubting Thomas to believe and say ‘My Lord and my God.’"

Lagdameo recalled that the resurrected Jesus removed the doubts and disbelief of His disciples, encouraged them to open their minds and to understand the Scriptures when He fulfilled the promise that He would be handed over to sinners and be crucified on the cross. But on the third day, He rose again.

"The gift of Easter is to see Jesus again, to remember what He taught and did, to live and celebrate our resurrection in Jesus," he added.

It is also a time to receive the Holy Spirit, renew the campaign for peace and spread love to mankind, the CBCP president said.

"The gift of Easter is in being able to say once more to God, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you’ and to say also to one another ‘Yes, and I love you too.’"

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said in his Easter message, "Peace be with you! This is the true Christian greeting, because it was Jesus Christ’s testimony to love. After the Resurrection, Jesus has triumphed over all, including His enemies, by forgiving them, and over His unfaithful disciples by reuniting Himself in love with them again."

While many regarded the last rites of the Holy Week as an end to a vacation or sign of the return of the election campaign, Rosales said he hoped the people were able to reflect and pray during the past days before going back to their routine lives. – With Evelyn Macairan and Sandy Araneta

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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