CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/05 January) –If you believe that the essence of democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, it follows that you believe in autonomy or self-governance.
To be true to this belief, you would be a dutiful citizen with a keen interest in public affairs. You would be involved in matters of governance—the decisions and actions entailed in managing community affairs.
Being a dutiful citizen, you would be concerned not only with your personal welfare, or your family’s, but also with the wellbeing of your community or barangay, which requires good governance.
This concern for local welfare is essential to the overall interests of government, for it is the level closest to individual citizens and their neighborhood on which our republic is anchored.
To be Meaningful, all the Way to the Grassroots!
If autonomy or self-governance is not operative at the base, it would be meaningless; if operative down to the municipal level only, it is one level removed from the people or the community. It would anchor government and the political system on elected officials who merely represent the people but are not the people themselves.
It would not tap into the reservoir of people power, the barangay, in which reside the sovereignty of the republic and all authority wielded by its functionaries or officials.
Being the wellspring of political power and authority, on this level (grassroots) hinges the legitimacy, strength, and stability of our republic.
It is important to be involved in the governing process of our community or barangay. If we’re not involved—meaning, we don’t participate—in effect we deprive government of our ideas, convictions, energy, and the moral support it needs from its power source (citizens).
In other words, we are withdrawing our support from the overall force that drives our society and government.
Though one may think lowly of one’s self, or believe one’s self to be socially or politically insignificant, one’s sovereignty matters as much as every other citizen’s and exerts its own influence on others — who will then subtract their own support from the pool, and so on around their circle of influence.
Ultimately, it weakens society and government even more. Like the proverbial last straw that breaks a camel’s back, withdrawing our support may well break down our civilization.
There are variations to being involved, however. Positive or negative. For instance, one can be involved in corrupt activities; in which case, one causes collateral damage or moral decay at the grassroots. This weakens the foundation of society and government by that much.
Many Filipinos are doing this even now—like the officials misusing or stealing funds meant for local development. Examples: pilfering pork barrel funds (PDAF) or internal revenue allotment shares (IRA) of the barangay, municipality, city, or province.
Another Example: powerful officials (cabinet secretaries, senators, congressmen, governors, mayors) who implant their relatives or cronies in choice government positions. They impair the wellbeing of government and society at large as they deepen the penetration of corruption and impunity into the bureaucracy and political system.
Moreover, these political predators threaten the entire body politic with a more virulent strain of social contamination, namely: dynastic succession. Political dynasties are today’s greatest threat to our social and political development as a nation.
The fact that more than 90% of our provinces and cities, even barangays, are ruled by patriarchs, matriarchs, or scions of political dynasties manifest the seriousness and gravity of the problem.
Thoughtlessly they turn our fledgling democracy into a howling oligarchy, clamping a ruthless hammerlock on our politics and economics.
Selfishly they exploit our society’s weaknesses and indulge their insatiable ambition to satisfy their lust for power and fame.
Shamelessly they betray an attitude of social irresponsibility, unmindful of the consequences of their vanity and greed as they aggrandize literal and virtual wealth.
What is tragic in all this is how little most of us realize how this dynasty-building binge across our archipelago reverses our people’s gains from a century of heroic striving and development.
Political dynasties, redolent of the doctrine of Divine Right of Kings, roll back society’s political maturity, stunt the growth of a fledgling democracy, and hold back the progress of human rights.
Hypocritical, thinking themselves indispensable, bereft of statesmanship, political dynasties are the major barriers in our march towards a finer, nobler civilization. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)