Voting in elections not enough – citizen participation crucial in nation-building | Inquirer Opinion
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Voting in elections not enough – citizen participation crucial in nation-building

04:01 AM January 19, 2021

This is a reaction to the letter of Col. Leonardo Odoño, “Drastic reforms needed to provide every Filipino a share of the national wealth” (12/4/20), where he stressed the need to address the adverse impact of our oppressive and decaying social, economic, and political orders that aggravate social inequalities and alienate Filipinos from their government.

Ours is a democratic form of government, which is actually a system of representative government that requires the people to trust those that they elect to make decisions for the common good. While our electoral system may be rotten, it can stand improvement as it is inconceivable to think of democracy without elections, which are a necessary tool or methodology for converting the collective will of the people through their elected leaders into government and policies, and the means to change the government.

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Nonetheless, we should regard elections only as a means of taking part in democracy instead of seeing it as an end in itself. Otherwise, we are holding to a notion of democracy that reduces its meaning simply to voting in elections, a ritual that boils down to an individual action performed in the silence of the voting booth.

Without citizen participation in the form of organized demonstrations and formed coalitions to push for government action or reforms on a number of issues, elections alone are no guarantee of a stable political system that is responsive to the needs of its citizens, especially so in an electoral system characterized by the merry ways of the corrupt and the corrupted that go on and on in a vicious cycle.

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We need citizen participation in the form of advocacy or public interest groups composed of concerned citizens who seek no material benefits for themselves, but whose purpose is to envision a citizens’ lobby that would work to persuade the government to put the force of law behind their vision of the public good, and to make government more responsive to the needs of the people. As pressure groups, they will be active in trying to influence the government on policy issues and initiating institutional reforms, believing that in the end government would listen and change to ward off the dissatisfaction that would otherwise form among the people.

Public interest groups as a manifestation of citizen power will operate within the existing constitutional order at a national level, with branches in every municipality and city. They will be active in determining the election candidates to back solely on their qualifications and commitment to public service, and in public opinion as well, by trying to influence the legislative outcome and to monitor how the elected representatives of the people respond to the convictions and concerns of their constituents.

ANTONIO DE GUZMAN
Lawyer

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TAGS: Antonio de Guzman, Elections, Letters to the Editor, Voting
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