Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Democratic and Republican Physical and Cyber State

“The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. “ (Section1, Article II, Philippine Constitution).

As a democratic State, all powers come from the people. Out of practicability, necessity, beneficiality, efficiency and effectiveness, the sovereign people may decide to delegate the powers to a group of people who may exercise them according to certain terms and conditions.

The terms and conditions are specified in an instrument called Constitution that the sovereign people ratified. This is akin to what we ordinarily call General and/or Special Powers of Attorney, signed, notarized, and delivered.

The functions, duties, and powers of the representatives or Attorneys-in-fact as enumerated in the Constitution are subject to certain rights and powers that the people reserved for themselves. These include the Bill of Rights, the People’s Initiative and in extreme cases, People Power Revolution.

The democratic process that the people follow to choose their representatives is what we call Elections. And the institution under which the representatives exercise their duties and functions is called Government.

The Philippine Government is not just democratic but republican as well. It is a Government Of the People, For the People, and By the People.

Certain elective officials are chosen by the people regularly – every 6 years for some, every 3 years for others and for special times for certain officials. Appointive officials under the Civil Service System and Constitutional officers serve for fixed terms. Political appointees are usually co-terminus with their political Bosses.

Apart from what the sovereign people specified in the Constitution, how do the Governors or public servants find out the “will of the people” or their Bosses’ wishes in between elections?

There were specific prohibitions for their public servants who were enacting laws: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” (Section 4, Article III).

With the prohibition, the people would be able to enjoy all the freedoms without fear or fervor to express their views for or against the acts of their own public servants. These views can be found in the newspapers, radio, television, cinema or other forms of media, the latest being texting, electronic communications, the Internet, the social media and the like.

Hearing, reading, feeling and knowing what is in the hearts and in the minds of the people to determine their will and wishes is a must for effective, efficient, and good governance. Curtailing or emasculating this freedom to express the people’s views would be depriving the Bosses from assisting the Head of State to guide the destinies of all Filipinos and the whole nation.

Surveys are proven ways to scientifically determine the pulse of the public despite their more limited samples. But obtaining information from the regular and social media, be they supporters or naysayers of the Government should be welcome so that it could be guided with humility, honesty, and honor in governance rather than proceeding with impunity, arrogance, and with ‘Wang Wang” mentality.

There is no place for any law that abridges freedom of expression. Any law that threatens any citizen with imprisonment for freely expressing his views under any circumstance is one such law. LIBEL should not be in the Revised Penal Code and should be excluded as a Cybercrime.

An educated, well-informed, and enlightened citizenry make a stronger, more creative, and progressive democracy.

To this end, the Constitution states, “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transaction, decisions, as well as to government research data used as bases for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.” (Section 7, Article III).

This provision, being included in the Bill of Rights, is self-executing. Until a law is passed providing such limitations, a sovereign citizen has a right to unlimited access to information on matters of public concern as specified.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act as proposed, consolidated, and sponsored by Congressman Erin Tañada should be passed ASAP not only to give more meaning to the above Constitutional provision but also to define the limitations and process for exercising the right.

It is too bad that Tañada was not included in the Senatorial slate of Daang Matuwid. He would have been the ideal candidate to explain, defend, and to discuss the benefits of this Constitutional and Statutory mandate in the campaign trail.

There is still time to pass it. “For it was all written. So shall it be done.”

I understand that there is a plan for Congressman Tañada to be in the Executive Department. That is good news. It is always better to have a Tañada on your side. Ninoy Aquino had nationalist Lorenzo Tañada, Sr. on his side during the Marcos years. Cory Aquino had Wigberto Tañada after People Power. PNoy should sit down with Erin immediately, and announce the appointment thereafter!

1 comment:

  1. Then we have Senators like Sotto who proclaim a better understanding of freedom than that public that is supposed to be his boss.

    "Unnecessary write-ups and comments have been made in the social networking systems with the public having in mind an imprecise concept of freedom of speech." Senator Sotto, Senate Journal, January 24, 2012