Democracy in form only

/ 05:01 AM July 30, 2020

In his opening paragraph in his column “A fake democracy?” (7/21/20), Cielito F. Habito asked: “Are we truly a democratic country?”

In his famous address at Gettysburg (1863), Abraham Lincoln described democracy as “… government of the people, by the people, for the people…” Lincoln’s famous description echoed earlier speakers, including Daniel Webster, in a speech in 1830: “… the people’s government made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.”


Our 1987 Constitution, in its Declaration of Principles (as in the old ones), declares that, as a democratic and republican state, “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them” (Section 1, Article II).

Rightly understood, the people which form the backbone of the state (not the government) are the sovereign power, while public officials are the public servants, not rulers who need to be paid homage to. As lawyer Jose Bayani Baylon in his column “The genius of the Constitution” (Malaya Business Insight, 7/17/20) wrote: “What can be more contrary to constitutionalism than a consciousness that converts the sovereign people into subjects, and the delegated government into rulers? A consciousness that establishes a ‘government of royalty’ instead of one of citizens?” In a manner of speaking, the spring cannot be above its source.


Going back to Habito’s question: Are we truly a democratic country? Or reduced to specificity, are we truly a representative democracy? A representative democracy is the theory that our representatives in Congress embody the will and aspirations of the people who elected them. If we go by the recent actions of our lawmakers in passing controversial bills against the prevailing sentiments of those they represent, not to mention their continued antipathy to enact an enabling law against political dynasties as mandated by the 1987 Constitution (in stark contrast to their overzealous, untimely move to pass the anti-

terrorism bill), I share Habito’s and other pundits’ painful observation that our democracy has indeed become one of form rather than of essence.

Freshest in our memory is the controversial vote to block the renewal of the ABS-CBN broadcast franchise. Outside of legal gobbledygook, our “people’s representatives” should have heeded the resonant voice of their constituencies for the network to return to the airwaves, as reflected in the surveys conducted by respected pollster SWS showing that 3 out of 4 Filipinos favored the franchise renewal, with Mindanao showing even greater support at 80 percent.

Diosdado V. Calonge,[email protected]

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TAGS: democracy, Letters to the Editor
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