A real political party
We gained our independence in 1946, ended the Marcos dictatorship and regained our democracy through the Edsa Revolt in 1986, and formally restored our democracy under the 1987 Constitution. But 66 years since Independence Day and 26 years after Edsa, what have we to show?
As a nation, we have made some gains and progress since 1946, but our slow economic development has not kept pace with our rapid population growth. With a population close to 100 million, the Philippines is now the 12th most populous nation in the world, and yet remains a developing country.
Our political development is marked by:
• Continued dominance of dynasties in our political and economic life.
• Massive poverty and growing disparity between the haves and have-nots, and restricted growth of the middle class as “the backbone of our democracy.”
• A “soft state” showing signs of a “failing state,” weak rule of law, endemic corruption, abuse of authority, continuing rebellion, extrajudicial killings, criminality, unchecked rapid population growth, environmental degradation, and human insecurity.
• Obsolete and dysfunctional democratic institutions that restrict the meaningful participation of citizens in their governance—in elections, in the three branches of government, and in local governments.
• A national government suffering from excessive separation of powers and paralyzing checks and balances among its three branches, making it difficult to develop modern political parties that are principled, program-oriented, and accountable to the people.
• Concentration of power and funding in our highly centralized government based on “Imperial Manila” at the expense of our people in far-flung and neglected provinces and regions.
And as our country is left farther behind by our progressive Asian neighbors, many of our youth face a dark future, and many more will have to seek employment abroad.
Change and reforms
Our basic political problems are our political system, institutions and self-serving leaders, not the Filipinos as a people. Our structural and leadership problems leave us no way out of our socioeconomic-political backwardness. Incentives for honesty and integrity, good governance, and accountability of our political leaders and civil servants are inadequate, and possibilities scant for citizens who are poor and insecure to become active stakeholders in our democracy.
To build a vibrant and effective democracy for our common good, we as citizens must fight for change and reforms, and be active in our governance. For this to happen, we must build real political parties. The Centrist Democratic Party (CDP) is one such party.
Unlike most Filipino political parties that are personal factions of our oligarchy of family dynasties organized mainly to win elections, CDP recruits members all over the Philippines. Its members pay annual dues, abide by the party’s rules, elect leaders, and select candidates for public office. All members are committed to the party’s core principles and program of governance and reform: human dignity, subsidiarity, social market economy, reform of dysfunctional institutions and policies, and building of the global Filipino nation as a peaceful and progressive nation and an inclusive democracy.
As human beings created by God in His image, we are all endowed with human dignity. Our Constitution calls on Congress to give highest priority “to protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity.
The state is subsidiary to our sovereign people whom the state must serve. It is “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It is also “development from the grassroots.” In CDP, we understand true democracy or as “Demokrasyang Pinatubo”: growing and nurturing democracy by building institutions with the people and local communities before involving higher levels of governance.
The CDP is committed to bring about a social market economy. Its objectives are: to develop a strong state to guarantee a stable legal and political framework in order for businesses to flourish and become competitive locally and globally; to level the playing field and ensure free market processes; to help provide our people good education and health services, social housing, and security in their old age; and to protect and sustain our environment for future generations.
For 66 years since we regained our independence in 1946, including 25 years under our 1987 Constitution, we have suffered under the same old colonial political system initiated under American colonial rule in 1899— our dysfunctional presidential government, and our dysfunctional and highly centralized unitary system. Again, for all these years, we have been ruled by an oligarchy of family dynasties. As a consequence, we remain backward, and we still have not consolidated our democracy. It remains at risk of reverting to an authoritarian system. We must liberate ourselves from our oppressive political system and institutions!
Global Filipino nation
We have become a global Filipino nation of some 97 million in our homeland and another 10 million overseas and counting. Through the Dual Citizenship Law and the Absentee Voting Law, overseas Filipinos now have more opportunities and incentives to participate in building a peaceful and progressive global nation and an inclusive democracy for the good of all Filipinos. Overseas Filipino citizens should be able to elect their own members of parliament in our future parliament.
For far too long, we have stressed our rights, privileges and entitlements and minimized our duties, responsibilities and obligations. All along, our neighbors in Asia have sacrificed for their national unity and progress. We need to find the golden mean to serve and protect the common good and the public interest, to build our nation, to democratize, to achieve prosperity, and to make peace and progress in cooperation with other nations. Let us then balance our Bill of Rights with a Bill of Duties.
Too many of our political leaders are “transactional leaders.” With their power, authority, political patronage and pork barrel, they bargain with their followers and exchange favors to gain their support and loyalty. While our democracy certainly requires bargaining and compromise, we also need “transforming leaders” who will inspire and challenge their followers to fulfill the vision and ideals in our Constitution: “to build a just and humane society” and “a democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace.”
Jose V. Abueva is the president of Kalayaan College. From 1987-1993, he was president of the University of the Philippines where he is now professor emeritus of political science. He is a member of the executive committee of the Centrist Democratic Party.
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