In the heat of partisanship, our democracy forgets the very principle which makes it a democracy – the majority of the people.
It is time to declare democracy un-implementable rather than perpetuate a hypocrisy. The main powers of Philippine society do not practice democracy anyway, so who else will? State and Church are autocratic with Malacañang and the CBCP completely undemocratic in behavior and history. Everything starts from the top and then trickles down, or forced down the throats of the very source of power in a democracy – the majority of Filipinos.
At least, the Church does not pretend so much that it is democratic. The Vatican with its many senior bureaucrats are king, the bishops in their dioceses are king, and theocracy is alive and well even as statements about the laity as an integral part of the Church are occasionally made. The laity is the laity; it follows dicta from the Church hierarchy and does not evolve and give authority to these decrees.
The separation of State and Church is another joke in the Philippines. These institutions have always worked as partners and have for the longest of time been married and sleeping together. In certain issues, such as population and birth control, the two quarrel. But they easily make up by simply invoking the principle of separation. What they fail to realize is the confusion their relationship causes to citizens and the faithful who cannot create two value systems without being as schizoid as the institutions which govern and influence them.
What remains very obvious is the top-down flow of power and authority – which is counter-democracy. This top-down direction is what Philippine history is all about, pre-Hispanic and intensified when Spain colonized and the Catholic Church Christianized the natives of our islands. When America introduced democracy, they did it by violating it from the onset, by invading without provocation a hapless people struggling to discard the yoke of foreign rule. Introducing the democratic version of top-down governance, the United States first massacred Filipinos before sharing with the subjugated afterward the American style of living.
Now, more than sixty years after Filipinos were allowed to pick up the pieces of colonization and three wars against Spain, the United States and Japan, natives who took over governance also took over the style of governance of their foreign predecessors. For those who are still shocked at what they call bad governance and dirty politics, they simply forgot history and watch television too much. To judge State and Church from an assumption of democracy is, to say the least, naive and borders on idiocy. This is where our pain and frustrations come from – our own false sense of assumptions and the false expectations that follow.
Elitism is alive and well in the Philippines. Those who believe they are superior to the ‘masa’ of Filipinos assume their ways are superior, their ideas are superior, their choices are superior. That is why both administration and opposition do not allow the people to speak their minds and their hearts. Each side says their appointees and programs, or their candidates, are good despite actual behavior or lack of track records for doing consistent good to the majority of Filipinos. The elitism hits not just the rich and powerful but also the holier-than-thou in civil society and the intellectuals who disdain not only the ‘trapos’ but the ‘hoi poloi’ as well. Always claiming to be for the people but never giving the same people the time of day is the favorite zarzuela of those who think they are better than they people they serve.
They said Jesus Christ was a rebel. If He was, then He rebelled against the elite of His time because only the elite can be the object of a rebellion. I believe Christ was the first living democrat. He spoke as though He believed in theocracy with His many references to His Father in n heaven, but He behaved as though he was a servant of the least among people. He even washed the feet of those who followed Him and reminded all that the entry to heaven depended on how we treat the least among us. Using his criteria, those who govern in State and Church would not qualify to be on the right side with massive poverty and endemic corruption as the sum total of their performance.
Now, everyone is focused on the 2010 elections, those who are accused of bad governance and those who accuse. It seems that there is no focus on poverty and corruption except as issues which one can throw to the other side. When hunger incidence in the latest polls shows a significant decrease from over 4 million to 2.9 million affected families, the administration was quick to take credit and the opposition said that 2.9 million is scandalous.
In truth, among the interested candidates, who has the poor as the central players of a democracy, as the primary objects of progress? Not even one of them moved visibly and spoke clearly about battling hunger. It is only right that Malacañang take credit for reducing hunger even as it takes the blame for hunger in general. It is better to be blamed or credited than to be a bystander when people go hungry and concentrate on less important matters. And I include all the noisy advocacy groups, the noisy civil society, and a Church which did not fight hard enough for their hungry sheep.
Democracy is a bottom up format of governance. It defies tradition and history, but it is grounded on solid principles that are truly of ethical politics and religious nobility. Democracy gives life to pronouncements of man’s equality under the eyes of God and under the laws of man – equal in worth and dignity. Democracy is worth building but so easy to abort in Philippine society when leaders do not really want to promote it.
In the noise and din now created by the rich and powerful, by a Church threatened with her waning influence, but civil society and the cause-oriented crying for good governance without any program for the governed, by holier-than-thou pundits in mass media and the Internet, where is the poor, where is the young, where are the voiceless majority who are the source of power in a democracy?
Nowhere. As nowhere as democracy.
“In bayanihan, we will be our brother’s keeper and forever shut the door to
hunger among ourselves.”