CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/21 March) — Has any of your local governments ever held consultations on any issue? I mean, real consultations—not simulated/manipulated hearings where pompous, pretentious, or pedantic speakers monopolize attention like railway trains do on a track.
For example, whether in Mindanao, the Visayas, or Luzon, was any aspect of the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) ever been taken up in a gathering in your community or barangay? How about in the municipio, city, or provincial capitol?
The CAB is a momentous issue with great significance to our national society and republic. But so far, only a lucky few NGO personalities are invited to “dialogue” in snazzy hotel function rooms.
How about other issues like the Cha Cha conspiracy to ease the entry of covetous alien capitalists who wish to buy up all our lands and minerals and strategic industries? You know, like Manny Pangilinan’s billionaire Indonesian-Chinese masters who—unbeknownst to our unsuspecting minds—now own mining, energy, transport, media, and goodness-knows what other interests!
On the 29th, Saturday, you might cogitate on these and other questions that impinge on our sovereignty. Also, do look into why your barangay officials don’t send out written notices as the law requires—and why they don’t they encourage the educated and the professionals in the community to attend? Make the Assembly the sounding board it was designed to be!
Consultation: Essence of democracy
Strictly speaking, in a democratic society (such as ours), any question of public interest—local, national, or universal—should be the subject of public consultations: social, political, economic, or whatever.
Strictly speaking as well, a government that fails to consult but takes unilateral action on an issue is in violation of its role in a representative democracy (such as ours).
You can characterize a not-consultative administration as arrogant; it arrogates what the people are entitled to but are deprived of.
The people have a right to deliberate on public matters and participate in deciding issues related to same but they are deprived, prevented from doing so. This function of the Barangay Assembly as the community’s parliament is being suppressed but no one raises the issue. So the will of the people is also suppressed. In mature democracies, officials who suppress the exercise of this right of the people would invite grave sanctions, even withdrawal of authority and loss of office—or recall. We can do the same but no one makes the move, which is provided in the Local Government Code (R.A. 7160).
Arrogance should have no place in our system; but it seems to be taken for granted as the natural order of governance.
Consent of Governed: Essence of Representative Governance
If you claim to be a democrat or believe in democracy, you should be clear about what it implies in terms of your acts or behavior. You should also determine whether others, public officials especially, believe the same and check whether they behave accordingly.
For example, note the absence of city or national officials next week—as if they don’t live in the barangay also! Police and military officials too are notorious absentees in community meetings. Even educators, priests, nuns, and other devotees don’t bother to attend. With such truant behavior, how can they claim to understand what people need or want?
Democracy starts with the will of the people. Government takes its cue from the desires and needs of constituents. Public officials must therefore ascertain the people’s wishes. If they don’t consult or confer, they belittle the people’s wishes. If they don’t discuss public priorities or make plans known, consent-of-the-governed is frustrated and rendered meaningless.
Merely to presume to know the people’s concerns without consulting them is wrong.
Consultation and consent are essential especially in our culture—where too many things are claimed or taken for granted—things that clearly run counter to people’s wishes or that violate cultural values or are socially/politically undesirable.
Policies that are not warranted would not be arrogantly proclaimed if there is sensitivity to the public pulse. Official acts would be more civilized. There would be less crudity, dishonesty, and vulgar behavior. Corruption would not be so shamelessly indulged, nor would impunity reign.
It is very bad that public morals or ethical conduct is taken lightly in our society. The very people who ought to ennoble politics give it a bad connotation. Heroism is tainted by hypocrisy and scandal. Movie icons indulge in fakery and incompetent politics. They project public service as mere play-acting and insincere posturing.
Their pretentious conduct corrupts the masses who idolize them. They bastardize public service. They cause the “bakya” mindset to be mistaken for the national character. They make Filipinos appear to be corrupt and unreliable, inconsistent and superficial, frivolous and always play-acting.
That’s the effect of electing so-called movie idols like a play-acting, sword-wielding Bong Revilla clad in fake celluloid armor who tries to parley horse-play and an undistinguished movie career into a presidential campaign. So is it the effect of a mediocre stuntman like a Lito Lapid who manages to turn his inane antics into a senate career, or of a person like Manny Pacquiao whose talent consists of breaking a person’s jaw but can hardly utter a decent sentence, or of a Jinggoy and other shameless sorts.
We have a hodge-podge of shameless show-offs and swashbuckling characters doing cheap song-and-dance acts as they deflect public attention from pork barrel scams and other shenanigans.
Can this unseemly paradigm of politics and governance be a topic for discussion and remedy by the best minds of the barangay?
Manny is among others a former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at development academy of Philippines, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org