Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Article II, Section 1 of the Philippine Constitution provides: “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

In the exercise of their sovereignty, the Filipino people regularly choose their representatives to perform designated functions and responsibilities that would constitute the government of the people, by the people, and for the people. This process reaffirms the universally accepted principles of democracy and republicanism or “representative government.”

Last May 10, 2010, the Filipino people delegated their local, provincial, and national executive and legislative powers to a group of people hoping for change in governance and an improvement in their economic life.

While they opted to delegate most of the sovereign functions, they also reserved certain powers to themselves which they may exercise when deemed necessary, beneficial and practicable. Among them are:

First, the people can directly exercise the powers of Municipal and City Councils;
Second, they can recall elected Municipal and City Officials;
Third, they can directly exercise the powers of Provincial Boards;
Fourth, they can recall elected Provincial Officials;
Fifth, they can directly exercise the powers of Regional Assemblies in Autonomous
Sixth, they can recall elected Regional Officials in Autonomous Regions;
Seventh, they can repeal, amend, and make new national laws; and
Lastly, they can also directly amend the Philippine Constitution.

These reserved powers are provided for under Sections 1 and 32, Article VI of the Philippine Constitution with respect to Legislative Powers, People’s Initiative and Referendum; Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution with respect to amending the Constitution; the Initiative and Referendum Act and the Local Government Code with respect to National and Local Initiative and Referendum, and Recall of Local Officials.

Noted political scientist and columnist Walter Lippmann once said, “Democracy is both a means as well as an end.” In this article, I intend to focus on “Democracy as a means”. This is an attempt to provide a more democratic mechanism, backbone or superhighway accessible to all freedom-loving Filipinos who might have some great ideas benefiting the Philippines.

In the United States there are thousands of Filipino organizations scattered all over. But the most productive and most helpful to Philippine communities are the hometown organizations. A good example is the Rosaleneans – an organization of those who came from Rosales, Pangasinan, and my hometown and also that of famous writer Francisco Sionil Jose, author of the Rosales Saga series of five novels. There are Rosaleneans in Southern California, Northern California, Hawaii, Washington State and other places. Most of their projects have been social and economic. The extent of their political involvement in our hometown is sending financial contributions to their chosen candidates.

“All politics is local”, the late US House Speaker Tip O’Neill once said. In order to build the backbone or superhighway for democracy, we must start locally. We must be non-partisan although political. That’s why converting the hometown organizations to People’s Parliament for Self-Rule would be a good beginning. Such a conversion would institutionalize People Power and brings us closer to direct democracy – a universal precept that millions if not billions of people worldwide still dream of, fight for, and die for.

Can it be done? It is not as hard as some people may think. To assume Municipal Council powers, you initially need only 100 registered voters in the locality; City Council and Provincial Board powers, you need 1000; Regional Assembly powers, you need 2000; Congressional powers, you need 3% of registered voters in each Congressional District (about 4500) and 10% nationwide (5.1 million); and Constituent Assembly powers, 3% of registered voters in each Congressional district (about 4500) and 12% nationwide (6.12 million).

In fact, a proposal is initiated first at the local council which may or may not approve it. If approved, then it becomes a local law; if disapproved, then it is submitted as a local initiative to be decided by the voters directly. If the people are dissatisfied with the actions of certain local officials, they can also exercise the power of recall which requires the signatures of 25% of the registered voters in the locality.

The goal is for Filipinos in the United States working with relatives in the Philippines to convert themselves into a Philippine People’s Parliament, Regional Assembly, Provincial Board, City Council or Municipal Council.

It is necessary for them to register as Philippine voters. For many, they may have to register as dual citizens. Upon registration as voters, they immediately qualify to be a Member of the Philippine People’s Parliament or MP3. To exercise local legislative powers, they will have to partner with relatives or friends who are registered voters until the law is changed to allow the votes of Overseas Filipinos counted for local concerns.

In the process of building this democratic backbone, we are also bridging the gap between perception and reality, between the potential and the actual as I described in the following article: http://www.mabuhayradio.com/sections/politics/6370-perception-vs-reality-the-numbers-tell-the-story.html. We could end up with the unexpected and unintended consequence of creating and developing an educated, enlightened, and empowered Filipino and American citizenry.

In the words of former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, “Initiative, like referendum and recall, is a new and treasured feature of the Filipino constitutional system. All three are institutionalized legacies of the world-admired EDSA people power. Like elections and plebiscites, they are hallowed expressions of popular sovereignty. They are sacred democratic rights of our people to be used as their final weapons against political excesses, opportunism, inaction, oppression and misgovernance; as well as their reserved instruments to exact transparency, accountability and faithfulness from their chosen leaders. While on the one hand, their misuse and abuse must be resolutely struck down, on the other, their legitimate exercise should be carefully nurtured and zealously protected.”

This is self-rule and direct democracy in action. Mine is not just a proposed idea. It is law. It is enshrined and protected under our Constitution and our statutes. It is not just governing “with the consent of the governed”, it is ruling with the initiative of the governed.

While the principles are universal and the impact global, the proposed actions are plainly local.

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