Realizing Our Vision and Ideals of Filipino Democracy

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
December 28, 2014

As a student of political science and an advocate of good democratic governance and political reform, I often refer to our constitutional vision of building “a just and humane society” and building a “democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.” (from the Preamble of our 1987 Constitution).

After defining our “National Territory” in Article I, our 1987 Constitution declares 28 Principles and State Policies in Article II. The first of these is: “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and government authority emanates from them.” Section 1.

Actually, like all the other 27 Principles and State Policies, Section 1 speaks of a specific legal aspiration that is part of the authoritative national vision of our Philippine Nation-State.  Our 1987 Constitution was legitimately framed by a Constitutional Commission and then ratified by the people in a national plebiscite in February 1987.
 

The degree of our realization of the legal aspiration that “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State…” and “Sovereignty resides in the people” depends upon our national and governmental capacity for “Good democratic governance.”

What is “Good democratic governance”? Blending Filipino and international ideals and standards, we might understand “Good democratic governance” in our aspiring democracy and modernizing society as fulfilling and manifesting more of the following features that are mostly spelled out as ideals and principles in Article II in our Constitution.

(1) We need a much deeper sense of nationhood and national unity, a stronger commitment to and practice of spiritual values and secular morality (public ethics and accountability), the  ability to promote the common good, and develop a modern outlook as a progressive multi-cultural nation. Let us ever be conscious that we are the 12th most populous nation in the world and a relatively poor and small country, the 71st in land area.

(2) The Government should be able to perform its “prime duty…to serve and protect the people.” Section 4. And “Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military.” Section 3.

(3) “[T]he enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy…[depends upon] [T]he maintenance of law and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and the promotion of the general welfare [by the government and the people]. Section 5.

(4) “The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life.” Section 9.

(5) “The State shall promote social justice in all phases of national development.” Section 10.

(6) “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” Section 11.

(7) “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.” Section 12.

(8) “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social wellbeing. It shall inculcate in the youth

patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.” Sec. 13.

(9) “The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and will ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.” Section 14.

(10) “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.” Section 15.

(11) “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accordance with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” Section 16.

(12) “The State shall give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development.” Section 17.

(13) “The State affirms labor as a primary social economic force. It shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare.” Section 18.

(14) “The State shall develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos.” Section 19.

(15) “The State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and provides incentives to needed investments.” Section 20.

(16) “The State shall promote comprehensive rural development and agrarian reform.” Sec. 21.

(17) “The State recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development.” Section 22.

(18) “The State shall encourage nongovernmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation.” Section 23.

(19) “The State recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation-building.” Section 24.

(20) “The State shall ensure the autonomy of local governments.” Section 25. We have a highly centralized Unitary System and local governments that have very limited powers, authority, and resources.

(21) “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and [legally] prohibit political dynasties”…Section 26. Actually, our political dynasties, also known as family dynasties, have enjoyed primacy in elections and public office in many jurisdictions. Our political system is known as “a political oligarchy” or the rule of the few who are rich in a society of the many who are poor, insecure, and dependent on the oligarchs/family dynasties as their political patrons. In other words we have “a patron-client democracy.”

(22) The citizens as the legally avowed sovereign in our democracy will be empowered only when many more of them are freed from poverty, ignorance, and dependency on the political and business elite; as they become part of our middle classes; and they join meaningful political parties that are committed to democracy and good governance.

(23) The citizens’ participation in free and fair elections and in policy and decision-making are made possible by an open, accessible and responsive government in a free society, and with a competent and responsible media.

(24) Government officials should become transforming leaders with the political will to do what is necessary and urgent in terms of the needed policies and decisions, and basic reforms; and are responsive to the needs and demands of empowered citizens.

 

(25) We need effective and accountable political, economic, and social institutions, including political parties that mediate between the citizens and the government, and can hold the ruling political party or coalition accountable for the quality of its governance.

(26) Government becomes more transparent and accountable in response to the citizens’ will and their right to know (“the truth” in governance) as the sovereign in a democracy. “Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State shall implement a policy of full disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.” Section 28.

(27) Good governance is certainly marked by the rule of law, the honesty and fidelity of public servants, and the certain punishment of those who are unresponsive, abusive and corrupt by a competent executive and judiciary. “The State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption.” Section 27.

(28) Foresight and efficiency in the exercise of power and authority will make good use of scarce resources, including time.

(29) Effectiveness in providing the needed public services, solving problems, and achieving goals, all for the common good in a progressive democracy. Optimal outputs and outcomes are vital in good democratic governance.

(30) Realizing “Pamathalaan,” the indigenous Filipino vision of governance:  “dedicated to the enhancement of man’s true spiritual and material worth”…through leadership by example, reasonable management, unity (pagkakaisa) between the governors and the governed, social harmony based on love (pagmamahalan), and compassion (pagdadamayan). (Pablo S. Trillana III. The Loves of Rizal, 2000. p. 179.)

Also see Ledivina Cariño. Government to Governance: Reflections on the 1999 World Conference on Governance. EROPA, 2000.  pp. 1-16].

Assessing the state of our democracy, government, politics, and the performance of our leaders and citizens. Our constitutional vision and ideals in building “a just and humane society” and an ideal democracy give us the bases for assessing the actual nature of our democracy and the quality of its governance by our leaders and citizens.

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