The Day after Tomorrow (Part III).
In the first part of this Article, I looked at the nation under the amended Constitution from the prism of Separation of Powers and the possibility of Secession. Today, I shall dwell on politics and the concerns it touches.
Will politics and our preoccupation with it change when we amend our Constitution?
A constitution is more than a mere statutory law. The latter, in the general scheme of things, is merely a tool for the ordering of our society. A constitution is notches higher because it is likewise an expression of the unity and will of the people through which they manifest their sovereignty under a democracy. The people alone, not any individual Filipino or any of our leaders, exercise sovereign authority under our Constitution.
On the day after tomorrow, our amended Constitution shall still provide for a government of, for, and by the people as had been done since 1935. Under this ideal, politics - or the art or science of government, or of guiding or influencing governmental policy - will still be with us.
In our handling of politics lies the greatest danger to our still fragile democracy. The sad reality is that our democracy can still be lost or its aims thwarted, not only by dictatorship or strongman rule, but also by a group or groups who can monopolize the exercise of power.
Our country has not shaken off its fear of dictators and strongmen, and we are still experiencing the monopolistic rule by political dynasties and by the economically powerful, who, through time and practice, have demonstrated marked improvements in masking their moves.
On our own, we have likewise been placing our nation in peril because of our predilection for political partisanship. This trait, now almost cultural in character, has influenced the acts, both of government and of citizens, often times leading to policies and actions prejudicial to the nation.
On the day after tomorrow, our amended Constitution may expressly prohibit political dynasties, following the people's distaste for the currently prevailing situation. But an express prohibition and its implementation are not one and the same, as the 1987 Constitution currently proves.
Faced with an express prohibition, the dynasties may simply shift their focus towards the control of policies through economic power. This shift, and the mindset towards political partisanship, shall be immensely harder to contend with.
The key in controlling monopolistic policies dictated by raw economic power largely lies with Congress and the exercise of the police power of state. But constitutional amendments should already lay the proper supporting foundation through guiding parameters for both Congress and the Judiciary. Only by this means - assuming that the rule of law is followed - can political discretion be controlled towards our constitutionally desired goals.
Another key move would be through constitutional amendments oriented towards social justice, to equitably distribute wealth and the proceeds of production and to address the widespread poverty in the country. Care should be taken, however, to avoid a lopsided Constitution that focuses more on the sharing and distribution of economic benefits, with very little countervailing emphasis on wealth generation and economic development. To use a labor law analogy, we resolve doubts in favor of labor, but must also protect management.
On the day after tomorrow, I hope to see a proper balance between the wealth generation and distribution as a common goal, but this could be possible only at the practical level if the obligations involved to achieve this goal are constitutionally shared.
Thus, while the owners and generators of wealth shall be compelled to share their bounty, so also must the people be compelled to do their share to achieve production goals and to make the goal of equitable sharing meaningful and productive for the nation as a whole.
Specifically, the people should bear the express obligations to ensure that the shared benefits are put to good use and are not needlessly dissipated. Again, to use labor law terms - both labor and management should be protected by rights and burdened by obligations, for a harmonious and productive workplace.
In 1935, our Constitution adopted the US concept of a bill of rights as the people's shelter against the legal might of the State. A further balancing came in 1973 through the Article on the Obligations and Duties of Citizens, this time balancing the legal rights afforded to citizens with their obligations to the State. These consisted of the obligation to be loyal, to respect the rights of others, to engage in gainful work, and to vote.
The 1987 Constitution added the Declaration of Principle and State Policies that committed the State to positive policies towards, among others, education, the rearing of the youth for responsible citizenship, and economic development.
The 1973 Article on duties and obligations, however, disappeared under under its 1987 successor. Thus, the express duties and obligations were replaced by statements of principles and non-self-executing policies.
I hope that on the day after tomorrow, we can see the restoration of the Article on the Duties and Obligations of Citizens, fine tuned to include self-executing amendments stating the duties and obligations of citizens with respect to the environment, the family and the rearing of children, the education of the young for responsible citizenship, and the obligation to contribute individual efforts towards economic development.
The individual citizen would thus know the Constitution's express commands on the concerns that immediately touch him or her - the environment, the family, the education and rearing of children, and the economy - aside from what the 1973 provisions contain.
More on my thoughts on what may lie ahead on the day after tomorrow in my next article. Readers can contact the author at email@example.com.
J. Art D. Brion (RET.)