MELBOURNE, Australia (MindaNews/ 8 September 2018) – Democracy is a system and process of governance. For it to thrive and remain vibrant, a check and balance in the governance of the state is institutionalized through the division of power expressed in the operation of the legislative, executive and the judicial branches of the government. Moreover, those exercising government powers, say, the executive department or the dominant or ruling party is always subject to the scrutiny by the political opposition, the minority party, whereby government plans and performance are assessed, and excesses in the exercise of power are clipped and sanctioned. Another institution that vigilantly looks into governance of the ship of the state is the press.

The check-and-balance functions of the three branches of government may be tampered or undermined when the executive department interferes in the operations of the legislative and judicial department by backdoor maneuvers or by acts beyond what is allowed by law. The removal of CJ Sereno and of Deputy Ombudsman Carandang from their posts not by impeachment but by executive fiat is a case in point here.

The mechanism of check and balance is also seriously disturbed when the opposition or the minority party is virtually abolished by absorption by the ruling party as in the confusing realignment of minority-majority block membership in the advent of the Arroyo rise to the House speakership.

Said mechanism is likewise diminished by the persecution and harassment of the critics of the ruling regime by trumped-up charges in court, as obtaining in the plight of Senator Leila de Lima and now on the contentious arrest order issued to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

And the power of the press to check the excesses of those in power and to report the same to the citizens may lose sting when countered and neutralized by fake news or fabricated reporting by state sponsored propagandists, as in the proliferation of fabricated news and reports every time the government trips over uncritical policy pronouncements or disturbing acts of the top CEO.

The death knell to democracy, however, is the clamping down of the mass media or its being caponed by state censorship, and its journalists are silenced by bribery, persecution and assassination. Happily, this phenomenon is not yet occurring in eye-catching scale. This may yet occur when tyranny is finally installed upon the declaration of Martial Law throughout the land.

Are we going in that direction, to the dogs? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental.)