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Democracy 101

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

By Marian Pastor Roces



“I find it hard to understand why this bloodless revolution has become the standard definition of freedom for our country…” says the Duterte Daughter Sara (DDS gold standard).


I, on the other hand, do not find it hard to understand why a bloodless revolution is questioned as the standard definition of freedom for our country. Or for anywhere.


I get it that my nausea is deliberately provoked. Not rocket science.


The made-for-DDS media plan for the February news cycle is obvious (obviously cynical) enough. Dismiss the 1986 EDSA event. Flick it like a fly, just pesky politics, nothing fancy. Knock it down from any political pedestal. Even if that pedestal is the Constitution itself.


DDS continued: “…and this standard is forced down our throats by a certain group of individuals who think they are better than everyone else.”


Aye, here’s the twisted tip of her weapon. That democratic ideals are dilawan standards, says she, and inapplicable to all. That “a certain group of individuals”, shoving their thinking down the collective throats of the rest, represent narrow vested interest. She is ho-hum about democratic ideals and happy to throw all that out with the bath water.


What other standards exist, therefore, that she implies she might prefer?


Instead of bloodless revolution, then the bloody kind, yes? Dictatorial change? Coups d’etat? ChaCha hiding authoritarian machinations in plain sight?


This DDS has a taste for butanguera politics, sure. And of course there is room for pugilistic method in a democracy. And there are indeed many iterations of democratic political organization. But the Constitution does define the Philippine democratic project and what it is not. State-sanctioned killings, violent change, and subversion of democratic institutions are extra-Constitutional imperatives.


That rarity of rarities —peaceful revolt, once upon a time achieved by about a million people willing to put their bodies on the line—is a Philippine cultural moment, not the political possession of a single political camp.


The Philippine democratic project as constitutionally defined is no party line; cannot be ideal of one or another set of political actors. Democracy requires total buy-in — even if it takes generations to secure this collective culture.


It should be an outrage that any Philippine government official — even a barangay kagawad — declares such dislike of the Constitution. That it is not, in fact, outrageous to Filipinos is a measure of democratic decay.


But the woman who thinks she will be President thinks she will be so outside the Constitution. Or imagines arrogating the post within the Constitution only to trash it at the first opportunity. Her father, family, and ilk have no love lost for the 1987 Constitution. (Possibly for none of previous ones.)


Globally, historically, bloody revolutions waged in the name of democratic change produced far more blood and far less democracy than even the perpetrators imagine when they begin. In the Philippines, the wars fought for democracy produced powerful anti-democratic actors.


To my mind, the only way to prosecute change without producing too many monstrous creatures, is the non-violent sort.


DDS’ statement was meant to be provocative. I was duly provoked, and don’t mind being snagged into the pits. Democracy happens to be my religion, and I’ll abide by my faith.

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