Our Rights and Duties as Citizens

The Bohol Chronicle
July 20, 2014
 

As a teacher in political science in U.P. Diliman from 1950, I sensed that the framers of our 1935 Constitution merely copied the U.S. Constitution by having a Bill of Rights but no Bill of Duties. When I studied in the United States in the 1950s and taught there as a visiting professor in the 1960s, I observed that Americans were much more conscious of their duties and responsibilities as citizens than we, Filipinos. Many Americans, including professors, joined either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, and they vigorously participated in the nomination and election of their presidential candidates.

In sharp contrast most teachers and also U.P. professors have not joined any political party to this day because they feel our political parties are meaningless and not worth joining! And I joined a political party only in 2012, at the age of 84, because the Centrist Democratic Party is truly Ang Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya in its ideology and political platform. All members pay our annual dues and take our political platform seriously.

And I have also observed that most of us, Filipinos, are more concerned with our rights and entitlements as citizens than with our duties and obligations to our nation and government.

A Proposed Bill of Duties to Complement the Bill of Rights in Our 1987 Constitution. As the senior adviser to the Citizens’ Movement for a Federal Philippines (CMFP), I led the drafting of a proposed constitution to change our Unitary-Presidential System to a Federal-Parliamentary System. In our Draft Constitution for a Federal Republic of the Philippines with a Parliamentary Government, the CMFP proposed a new Bill of Duties and Obligations to complement the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution.

We argued that, together, the Article on the Bill of Rights and the proposed Article on the Bill of Duties and Obligations would be very helpful in the civic education and training of responsible and accountable citizens and leaders. While respecting freedom of worship, we also urged that citizens should be assisted by concerned leaders and institutions in their spiritual development—to round out their civic and political education.

Our society seems to suffer from an excess of selfish individualism, (Wala akong paki-alam sa inyo. Bahala na kayo.); materialism (materialismo, hindi espiritual); and secularism (makamundo, hindi maka-Diyos).

On the other hand, we have these important reminders over many years. “Bayan muna, bago ang sarili!  (“Nation before self.”) This is a nationalistic reminder to all Filipinos as a sign of our love of country. As Jose Rizal said: “…the thought of my whole life has always been love of my country and her moral and material development” (1892). In his Dekalogo (1893), Andres Bonifacio said: “Always bear in mind that the true love of God is the love of country, and that this love is also the true love of thy fellowmen.” Apolinario Mabini said: “Procure thy country’s happiness before thine own, making her a kingdom of reason, justice and labor, for if she is happy, happy will also be thou and thy family” (1898). For his part, Manuel L. Quezon said: “We must imbue our whole citizenry with a spirit of heroic patriotism. For a country as small and with such limited wealth as the Philippines, ordinary patriotism is not enough to insure its security. Heroic patriotism is necessary—a patriotism that is devotion, loyalty, and courage that rises to the heights of self-sacrifice” (1939).

To the Catholic Church: “Filipinism, which is nationalism for Filipinos, means hard work and generous sacrifice for the welfare of the Philippines in the temporal order, genuine love of Filipino culture in its nobler aspects, sincere appreciation of our historic past, honesty in public as well as in private life, mutual cooperation in common endeavors, scrupulous administration of public affairs, faithful compliance with laws, unselfish acceptance of the burden of services required by the nation, payment of taxes and sincere love for national symbols and institutions” (1959). Catholics who make up the great majority of the faithful have a duty to respect and not discriminate  against Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and believers in other religions, or nonbelievers.

And as John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Therefore, as citizens in a developing democracy we should balance our emphasis on individual rights and privileges with a much stronger sense of individual, collective and communitarian duties and obligations. In this way many more citizens can become patriotic, responsible and effective—in solidarity with our kapwa Pilipino. We can then build a cohesive national community, a working democracy, and a peaceful, nonkillng, just and humane society.

Citizens of progressive nations like Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Israel, the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and the United States of America have a deep sense of their duties and obligations to the community and the nation.

Accordingly, the CMFP Draft Constitution that I drafted has Article V. Bill of Duties and Obligations immediately after Article IV. Bill of Rights. The 1935 Constitution and the 1987 Constitution do not have a Bill of Duties of citizens.

The proposed CMFP Article V. Bill of Duties and Obligations.

Section 1. Loyalty, obedience, cooperation. It shall be the duty of the citizen to be loyal to the Federal Republic of the Philippines and to honor the Philippine flag, to defend the State and contribute to its development and welfare, to uphold the Constitution and obey the laws, pay taxes, and cooperate with the duly constituted authorities in the attainment and preservation of a peaceful, just, and orderly society.

Section 2. Correlative duty. The rights of the individual impose upon him or her the correlative duty to exercise them responsibly and with due regard for the rights of others.

Section 3. Human life, dignity, rights. Citizens shall respect the life and dignity of every human person and help uphold human rights whenever these are threatened or violated. The State and the citizens shall prevent and prohibit the killing of humans in any form and for whatever purpose.

Section 4. Duty to work. It shall be the duty of every citizen to engage in gainful work and to work well to assure himself/herself and his/her family a life worthy of human dignity.

Section 5. Civic, political participation. It shall be the duty and obligation of every citizen qualified to vote to register and cast his or her vote at every election, to participate actively in other public and civic affairs, and to contribute to good governance, honesty and integrity in the public service and the vitality and viability of democracy. Citizens shall enhance their civic efficiency and political effectiveness by their involvement in people’s organizations, non-governmental organizations, civic and professional associations, community associations, or political parties, as well as in discussions on public issues.

Section 6. Promote equity, social justice. In their own homes, in the workplace, and in their various organizations and institutions, citizens shall cooperate in the promotion of equity and social justice for the good of all.

Section 7. Responsibility of youth. The youth shall assume their responsibility in developing their social, economic, intellectual and moral well-being. They shall develop their patriotism and

nationalism and their civic and political competence in order to serve the common good and national interest  and their own welfare.

Section 8. Health, ecology, environment. Citizens shall exercise their right to a balanced and healthful ecology, and contribute to the maintenance of a clean, enjoyable and sustainable environment.

The 2005 Consultative Commission. In 2005 President Gloria Macapagal Arrroyo appointed three leaders of the CMFP (Rey Teves, Lito Lorenzana, and I) to the Consultative Commission on Charter Change which elected me as chairman. The Commission proposed a Federal-Parliamentary System and the following  proposed Bill of Duties.

Article V. Bill of Duties

SECTION 1. It shall be the duty of every citizen to be loyal to the Republic of the Philippines, honor the Philippine Flag, defend the State, contribute to its development and welfare, uphold the Constitution and obey the laws, pay taxes, and cooperate with the duly constituted authorities in the attainment and maintenance of the rule of law and of a peaceful, just, humane and orderly society.

SECTION 2. The rights of the individual impose upon him the correlative duty to exercise them responsibly and with due regard for the rights of others.

SECTION 3. Citizens and the State shall at all times respect the life and dignity of every human person and uphold human rights.

SECTION 4. Citizens shall participate actively in public and civic affairs, and contribute to good governance, honesty and integrity in the public service and the vitality and viability of democracy.

Unfortunately for our proposed constitutional amendments, President Arroyo had lost her legitimacy and public trust. So the people suspected that she only wanted a change to a parliamentary government to extend her term as head of government. The Senate refused to join the House of Representatives in proposing the amendment to the Constitution. The President had abandoned our Consultative Commission’s advocacy of federalism, a Bill of Rights, and liberalization of the constitutional provisions on foreign investments.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is obstinate in his objection to any “tinkering” with the 1987 Constitution that her mother, President Corazon C. Aquino, had proposed for the restoration of democracy after the Marcos dictatorship. So our Supreme Law is also known to some as “the Cory Constitution.” More seriously, our political oligarchy and family dynasties have a vested interest in preserving our dysfunctional political system that perpetuates their supremacy and works against building a working democracy for the common good of our citizens.

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